Pepsi is now the talk of the town with their social justice, protest march, Kendall Jenner ad, and it was actually so blind and tone-deaf that for the first time ever, in an unprecedented event, the entire internet agrees on something, this ad is offensive. Although Pepsi is delicious, it’s hard to really make excuses for them this time around. But they aren’t the worst offenders. In fact, our favourite industry is notorious for these kinds of things, but for the longest time, gaming was niche enough to slide under the radar without anyone noticing. With that in mind, now seems like a good time to remind everyone just how bad video game ads can be. So here are a few.
Nintendo Game Boy “Keep it in your pants”
Nintendo gained a lot of popularity with kids in the 80s and 90s with the success of the NES and its successor, the SNES. Releasing its first portable console, and revolutionizing the market in the process, advertising the Game Boy was breaking new ground for the house of Mario. The ad is weird in general, showing a Game Boy stuffed into a pair of jeans so tight that the button mapping is completely visible along with some Nintendo brand underwear showing. Not only that, but the slogan “keep it in your pants,” just seems kind of creepy for an ad targeted at children. It’s not something I would imagine the family friendly company doing, but Nintendo went on to make a number of oddly inappropriate advertisements featuring children for their successful handhelds.
I remember thinking “Touching is Good”, the 2004 Nintendo DS slogan to be just as suggestively inappropriate considering how many children were present in many of the ads. As if to one-up Nintendo while proving the company’s masculinity, Sony displayed an image of a woman wearing a strapless black dress with cleavage on in view on both sides of her body. Using the text “Touch both sides. Twice the sensations”, the French ad attempted to boost awareness of the slow selling PlayStation Vita. At the very least, the ad would have worked for a mediocre Silent Hill title, like the one released on Vita.
3dfx “The ones who have actually seen breasts”
3dfx had a good reputation in the field of 3D graphics cards in the late 90’s. As a person who primarily plays console games, I let out a heavy sigh when I first saw this ad. “Haha, console gamers are so lame, they’ve never seen breasts before haha”. It wasn’t until looking further into things that I realized it wasn’t about mocking us console simpletons, but that it was referencing to a time when consoles couldn’t render 3D curves. The joke was relevant but went over so many people’s heads that it came off feeling like an insult, adding fuel to the fire of console versus PC gamers.
Square Enix Hitman “Beautifully Executed”
Sex has been used to sell a countless number of games in the past. Similarly, violence is often used as a way to gain attention, and show off how cool a game can be. Blending these elements together, however, can give you a result that leaves you feeling somewhat disturbed. A series of adverts were released leading up to the debut of Hitman: Blood Money, depicting Agent 47 assassinating a number of targets. “Beautifully executed”, is the tagline used for a lingerie-clad woman, sprawled out on satin sheets with a bullet hole in her forehead. I’m no longer able to focus on the attractiveness of the woman because I’m distracted by the fact that she’s been killed. At the same time, I can’t be at all impressed with the violence as I’ve never found the idea of shooting a woman in the head to be “cool”. In the end, I’m only impressed by Eidos marketing team for thinking this was a good idea.
EA Battlefield 1 “#justWWIthings”
The First World War remains an important part of history. Millions of soldiers fought and died in “the war to end all wars,” and I can’t say I can even begin to relate to how any of these soldiers went through. A feeling I can relate to, however, is looking fresh when I’m about to hit the club with the squad. How do these topics relate to each other? They don’t. This is why I’m baffled by the series of tweets sent out by EA’s Battlefield Twitter account as an attempt to market Battlefield 1. A fact I find even stranger is that a lot of the praise Battlefield 1 received was for developer DICE’s accurate depiction of the historical battles. I guess EA skipped history class.
EA Dante’s Inferno “Sin to Win”
In addition to throwing the history books out of the window, EA gave the finger to the bible and federal laws when they gave the go-ahead for the “Sin to Win” contest held by the Dante’s Inferno team. To promote the game, EA encouraged San Diego Comic-Con attendees to take pictures while rubbing up against the convention’s booth babes and sending the pictures to the team via Facebook or Twitter. Winners of the contest would receive “dinner and a SINful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of booty” — a prize so gross it’s laughable. Five runner-ups received free copies of Dante’s Inferno. A real lose-lose contest in the end.
Deep Silver Dead Island Riptide “Zombie Bait Edition”
Only true fans of Dead Island would be interested in Dead Island Riptide after seeing the game’s collector’s edition in the UK and Australia. The special edition included a 31 cm high, hand painted resin statue of a mutilated woman in a bikini. Deep Silver fully endorsed this product in a press release. “We wanted to provide a unique collector’s edition that was utterly Dead Island and would make a striking conversation piece on any discerning zombie gamer’s mantel,” said in a prepared statement from Deep Silver sales and marketing director Paul Nicholls. They did accomplish their goal, critics and fans of the game responded on Twitter, expressing their disgust and vowing to stay far away from Dead Island.
Deep Silver Mighty No. 9 “Anime fan on prom night”
Mighty No. 9 found ways to disappoint excited fans in just about every way it possibly could. Marketing was one of the few aspects in which the game was doing well. Heartfelt trailers with Keiji Inafune speaking about realizing his dream after leaving Capcom made people already willing to support the game even more enthusiastic about the project. Despite all that good will, fans grew skeptical about the game following a series of delays. So, Deep Silver made it their mission to send those fans into a fury with one final trailer. Using a cheesy narrator, the trailer tried to mimic an edgy 90s commercial, geared towards the “cool kids”. “Make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night,” the narrator says, insulting anime fans as the game’s anime protagonist runs away from poorly animated explosions. The one bright side of this trailer, it helped to lower expectations of what would ultimately be a poorly received game that fans waited so long for.
Sony PlayStation Portable “PSP White”
PSP White. A simple recolor of the PSP that really only needed a simple ad to display the new product. The last thing it needed to do was become a callback to the hundreds of years of slavery people of colour were forced to endure. Having nothing more than the text reading “PlayStation Portable White is coming”, you’d think the image of the all-white model angrily gripping the black woman next to her was photoshopped in as a prank. Some trickster designer sure made a fool of Sony of Europe, one for all the Netherlands to see.