Nintendo has found itself in the middle of a fresh controversy following the company's decision to offer pre-release access to the upcoming Wii U shooter Splatoon to Playboy. There's nothing pornographic going on in Playboy's coverage of the game, but that hasn't stopped criticism of the choice to grant editorial access. As Mike Williams of USgamer points out, the Splatoon/Playboy pairing isn't a marketing mistake. Acclaim offering money for defacing gravesites in the name of Shadowman: 2econd Coming is a mistake. Sony attempting to make PlayStation Portable ads go viral is a mistake. Electronic Arts staging a fake protest against Dante's Inferno is a mistake. Check out the full list of disgraces from the world of product promotion.
For its edgy God of War-style action game, Dante's Inferno, Electronic Arts had a genius promotional idea. It hired 20 people to stand outside of E3 2009 and fake a religious protest of the title. The fake Christian protesters held signs saying things like "Hell is not a Video Game" and "Trade in Your PlayStation for a PrayStation". It did strike attendees as odd that this religious group was protesting a game almost no one knew about, outside of those who saw the announcement trailer released a few months before E3, but no harm, no foul right?
Nope. Some actual Christians hated being held up as fake boogeymen to promote Dante's Inferno. One blogger outright called the stunt "anti-Christian". And it's not like it particularly helped the game's promotion at E3, the largest annual promotional event the game industry has. Just show the game and call it a day, folks.
There's a worse example of Dante's Inferno marketing stunts, sadly. This is the same game that sparked a contest at Comic-Con 2009 in which entrants were encouraged to "commit acts of lust with a booth babe" to win a date with a paid model. There's no stoop too low for some unscrupulous marketing firms out there especially if any exposure counts as good exposure in the end. After all, without these horrible campaigns, would we still talk about Dante's Inferno today? Although I enjoyed the game and found it a deeper experience than most others did, it wasn't exactly a topic I expected to raise today. Thanks to this marketing stunt years ago, we're having a discussion about it now. Points for effort on that one, I guess. As for Nintendo and Playboy, no matter you opinion on the Splatoon coverage, we're talking about that game now too. Even marketing stunts that backfire still achieve their overall goal of raising awareness in the end.