When it comes to ill-advised marketing stunts, early 2000s Acclaim was in a league of its own. When it wasn't offering to pay speeding fines to promote Burnout 2, it was asking people to name their babies Turok and petitioning the recently bereaved to include billboards for Shadowman 2 on their relative's gravestones. It's a move former Acclaim employees told us was a reaction to the success of irreverent titles like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto III and was frowned upon internally by developers who often agreed with the negative publicity.
Recently, while chatting to former staff for another article, the conversation turned towards a stunt, however, that even Acclaim couldn't go through with. Around 2002/2003, Acclaim commissioned a company to create branded condoms based on their Teen-rated platformer Vexx. The idea was to give them away at industry events, such as E3, to promote the game, but the company eventually decided against it.
As Vexx designer Kynan Pearson told us, "The condoms were produced by a company for really cheap and at the last minute the call was made to not give them away because a worry that someone would actually try and use them and Acclaim couldn't be responsible in the event that they weren't actually functional. [...] Instead, they gave the box to the dev team."
In other words, while Acclaim was more than happy to have several Turok babies running around in the world, a Vexx baby could potentially spell a costly lawsuit for the company.
Surprisingly, this isn't the only example of a video game for kids that received some strangely-inappropriate marketing. Namco's mascot-platformer Klonoa: Door to Phantomile, for instance, received an ad campaign where it likened the hero's name to a sexually-transmitted disease; and Ubisoft, for reasons unknown, decided to promote Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc with an image of strangers marveling at its lead character's junk.
Needless to say, the late 90s and early 2000s were an odd time for video game advertising, with publishers trying every trick in the book to get people to play their games; just not one that could potentially blow up in their face nine months later.
What are some of the worst video game advertisements you remember? Let us know in the comments!