5 Hilarious Video Game Industry Screw Ups

When an industry is made-up of almost equal parts society-changing brilliance and playboy man-child syndrome, it's bound to generate some exceptionally stupid ideas.

Case in point:

Most of the stupidity flies under the radar and only enrages mothers and religious people for a few days before they move on to an even ridiculous-er topic that will get them more airtime on the evening news, like "Wigger Day."

But other bonehead moves from the game industry have done more than just induce worldwide face-palming–-they've cost companies thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of credibility and respect. (As well as real, actual dollars.)

There are many spectacular f-ups that belong on this list, but here are my personal favorites:

5. Sony Celebrates God of War II with Topless Women and a Headless Goat

The Shitstorm

What better way to send a message to the world that video games are not violent and unhealthy for children than to throw a party for your new game with boobs and butchered animals.

Back in 2007, Sony held a crazy shindig in Athens, Greece to promote God of War II. Instead of offering partygoers an open bar and an end-of-night SWAG bag like every other video game party, Sony thought to itself, "No. That's not the Sony style." Then one brave executive in the Sony party-planning meeting slurred through Vodka breath, "Hey. Thiss game iss about, like, Greek gods and stuff, right? Well, then sscrew it, we gotta have a Greek shit theme." He then passed out and fell out of his spinny Ikea desk chair into a potted plant. Ha ha! Drunks.

Apparently, this was the best idea that came out of that meeting, because the party in Greece was dripping (literally) with Sony's version of Greek mythology: a headless, bloody goat as a centrepiece and topless women feeding people grapes. It is unconfirmed whether or not Charlie Sheen was in attendance.

The Aftermath

Turns out this came across as "poor taste," and I'm not just talking about the goat entrails they supposedly served. Animal rights groups were outraged, and critics had a field day saying, "See?! Video games really are all about blood lust and boobs!"

My favourite part, however, was the statement from Sony: "The goat was returned to the butcher. On this occasion we recognise that we fell short of our normal high standards of conduct."

I love that stating the location of the headless goat was equally as important as apologizing to the world for throwing the stupidest party of all time. Stay classy, guys.

4. LittleBigPlanet Recalled Worldwide for Qur'an References

The Shitstorm

If you're not thoroughly educated on the subject, and I'm guessing you're not, you should probably refrain from saying anything about the Qu'ran. In fact, I'm probably going to get in trouble by someone on the Internet for simply writing that sentence. But I wouldn't be the only one.

LittleBigPlanet is one of the most adorable games ever made. Out of all of the video game characters to ever run across my TV, the Sackboy is the one I'd have the hardest time believing was convicted of first-degree murder or genocide. That's why it was such a shocker to learn that, in 2008, the game was pulled from shelves and recalled for featuring a background track containing two offensive expressions from the Qur'an.

The first phrase translated to "Every soul shall have the taste of death," and the other said "All that is on earth will perish." Come on, what's not hilarious about imagining this little guy whispering those phrases into your ear at night with a big smile and possibly a butcher knife. "Danny's not here, Mrs. Torrance."

The Aftermath

As stated, the game was delayed and recalled from retailers worldwide. A new, less Qu'ran-y version of the game was released a short while later, in an effort to say to the public, "JK LOL."

Oh, and what's it time for? Another apology from Sony? "We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologise for any offence that this may have caused." Sorry Sackboys, you'll have to find a different way to get your death threats across.

3. EA Holds a Contest to Win Prostitutes (Basically)

The Shitstorm

When you are running a super serious business, it's crucial to know your consumers. You've got to know what they really, really want. If your audience consists of housewives, for example, they want spatulas, irons, and checkered aprons. Plumbers just want pants that stay above their buttcrack, and postal workers? They just want shotguns! In a similar effort to erase all progress ever made to break through a stereotype, EA offered women as a contest prize to gamers, insinuating (on paper, for the world to see) that they are all lonely, drooling, lust-crazed walking boners.

To promote Dante's Inferno, Electronic Arts asked Comic-Con '09 goers to "commit acts of lust" by uploading photos of themselves with hot booth babes to Twitter and Facebook. But here's the kicker: the winner (whoever did the best fake groping in their picture?) would be awarded "a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi, and a chest full of booty." If that doesn't suggest an evening of clean, family fun, well gee golly I don't know what does!

Prostitutes. Obviously they mean prostitutes, right? Or, pardon me, "escorts." Either way, it's… pretty damn questionable.

The Aftermath

Needless to say, many people were butt-hurt by this contest, and I don't mean in the fun way. Maybe it had something to do with the blatant objectification of women or the poorly-worded contest rules, or maybe that the whole thing was advertised on a picture of breasts with the moronic phrase, "Dinner, Booty, and More." Hey, who knows. All I know is we got another great apology:

"'Commit acts of lust' is simply a tongue-in-cheek way to say take pictures with costumed reps. Also, a "Night of Lust" means only that the winner will receive a chaperoned VIP night on the town with the Dante's Inferno reps, all expenses paid, as well as other prizes."

So, "a sinful night with two hot girls" magically turned into "a night of driving around with company representatives." Where do I sign?!

2. Sony Debuts "White Is Coming" Racist PSP Ad

The Shitstorm

God bless you once again, Sony. You are like a plane filled with girl scouts crashing into a mountainside. It's all so horrible and I can't look away.

Now, I've never visited the Netherlands, but if these are the kinds of blatantly offensive billboards they greenlight, I need to go there immediately before the whole place gets shut down. I can't imagine a more hilarious vacation.

You remember the boobs, you remember the headless goat, you remember the Qu'ran references. Well, brace yourself for glaring, larger-than-life racism. In 2006, Sony debuted a Dutch-only ad campaign for the white PSP. That sounds all well and good, until you see the billboard for it.

…Yeah. I'm a pretty terrible journalist, and not even I can make this stuff up.

It baffles me to think how a promotional idea like this can make it through all of the B.S. stages of marketing without someone, anyone, saying, "Uh, hmm. Hey, guys? Do we think that an angry Caucasian forcefully grabbing a timid African American by the jaw with the words ‘White is Coming' behind them could possibly upset someone?" NAHHHHH! Don't be ridiculous!

As Kotaku said, "I'm not quite sure what they were thinking here, but you might as well slap a hood on that chick."

The Aftermath

Come on, really-what do you think happened? People were pissed, Sony freaked out, the ad was pulled, and… an an apology was released:

"We recognise that the subject matter of one specific image may have caused concern in some countries not directly affected by the advertising. As a result, we have now withdrawn the campaign." Sony's marketing: the most entertaining shame spiral of my lifetime.

1. EA Illegally Mails Out Real Brass Knuckles to Promote The Godfather II

The Shitstorm

Yes, 2009 really was a great year for video game industry controversy-and this one takes the shiny, gold, four-fingered cake.

Video game companies like to send fun promotional gifts to game journalists accompanying review copies of their game. I assume it's in an attempt to be memorable, but we all know they're just trying to kiss major arse for a good score. Sometimes the gift is a cute little toy or stuffed animal, and sometimes it's a package of meat. But on a good day, it will be an illegal weapon.

To promote The Godfather II, EA shipped out real brass knuckles alongside press copies of the game. Except… funny thing is, brass knuckles are very, very illegal in most countries. In fact, they're illegal in 10 states in the US alone (including California where EA is based), and considered prohibited weapons in Canada. Anyone in possession of said weapons would face criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada-in this case, that would be thanks to Electronic Arts.

The Aftermath

In another "JK LOL" attempt, Electronic Arts contacted game writers around the country asking them to return the brass knuckles immediately. The company wanted to make sure that the weapons were "properly disposed of"–-but, like, in a designated weapon destroying facility, and not in someone's cranium.

According to Kotaku, the company declined to comment any further, making this "RETURN THE BRASS KNUCKLES, NOW" phone call basically a threat. I don't know about you, but I think this is the most accurate promotion for The Godfather II game they could have ever hoped for.

For the record, I didn't realise this was going to be solely an EA and Sony bash-fest until I started writing. But it is what it is, and these have been the controversies that have made me laugh the heartiest. Oh, games industry, never change-just please include me on the list next time you ship out free weapons. I've made an under-the-table deal with the Sackboys and we're on a budget.

Kotaku Presents' debut season features Lisa Foiles, who is best known as the former star of Nickelodeon's award-winning comedy show, All That. She currently works as an actress/web host in Hollywood and is continuing to dabble in video game voiceovers. For more info, visit Lisa's official website She's also on Twitter.

Comments

    Geez.... lol, Good article those were pretty interesting.

      Yeah, this was pretty good. If you want to make silly "lol look at this it's pretty funny" articles (I'm talking to you Luke) then this is how you go about it. Well done, author.

    Sounds like Sonys CEO is Mr Magoo...Oh Sony, you've done it again.

    Ah you crazy Japanese business men, how I love you so.

    I'll be honest...I didnt get the "white is coming" thing untill I saw "oh theres a black person there"

    at first it just looked like the crazy white lady had smoke coming out of her fingers....

      That one took me ages as well then I just burst out laughing. Who comes up with this stuff!?

        Yeah, I admittedly didn't see it for a while either. Terrible photo.

    What happened to people who didn't return their brass knuckles? I assume they got a horse's head in their bed.

      ...What do you think they did with the Goat from the God of War party. Horses are soooo 70's.

    Proof that EA is run by Fools

    I am glad all these things happened, it has brightened up my morning. I had totally forgotten about these even though I read about them at the time.

    Am I the only one who hates the term butt-hurt? It's one thing for random internet chatter, but another thing to be in an article. Bah! *waits for the inevitable response.* :P

      Your sounding a little, butt-hurt. Hahaaaaaaaaaa :P

    This list sounds incredibly familiar. I think it might have been taken from one of those "top ten lists of lists this week" that Kotaku used to run a year or so back.

      Dude, no... It's from Reddit like everything else these days are apparently.

    This is a great piece, and... wow. The marketing teams for these studios sound insane. Or desperate for attention with stunts. Probably both.

    more of this please :)

    Alot of this stuff is done on purpose to create controversy, which gets attention. Good or bad it gets the product attention. I know a guy who designed a promotional poster for Sony a few years ago and was basically told there were almost no limitations on what he should do. Making it controversial or even a bit offensive was pretty much encouraged. The ad only stayed up a few days but it got alot of attention. Think it was for Sony sound system or something along those lines.

    I don't see what is raciest about number 2? Are people of different ethnicity not allowed on the same advertising together?

      *whoosh*

      I guess the fact it is depicting a white person standing over a black person, doesn't seem abnormal to you, or is it normal where you come from?

        I come from Tanzania, Africa... so yeah it's pretty normal....

    i think you're quite off target for some of these. firstly, god of war is not for kids. it's full of blood, violence and some boobs. it is meant for adults. as such, having an adult theme for the party is right in line with that. your reasoning that the party should have been family friendly because you want to convince the world that games are ok for kids, is just absurd.

    also, i remember that white psp ad. i also remember there were more pictures, some including black dominant poses, you've not included those for obvious reasons, you cherry picked to get the most sensational response.

      also, please note, that the ads were not in america, they were in the netherlands, which didn't have a history of black slavery. why the author here makes the leap that the black woman is an african-american, i do not know.

        1. The issue with the GoW party is that it's in bad taste, and was hosted when gaming was really struggling to be taken seriously as a pastime and art form. As the article says, how do topless women and a headless goat help dispel the idea that gaming is for repressed, blood-thirsty nerds?

        2. Again, AS THE ARTICLE SAYS, 'white is coming' showing white on black violence is a stupid, stupid idea because it directly references racism. It doesn't matter that the Netherlands doesn't have the same history of racism that the US does, because racism is universal. The issue remains the same when the roles are reversed, too. Black on white violence is the same thing as white on black violence.

          It's called Cultural Values Dissonance. You're taking the american mindset on racism/slavery and applying it to a culture that doesn't share those viewpoints. Sony says as much in their apology, that the ad offended people whom it was never advertised to, namely Americans. These billboards never appeared in America, because THEY would see it as racist, even though it isn't. They would do exactly what you and the author of this article did.

          The Netherlands aren't the US. The racial situation in that country is not the same. The culture is not the same. What appears racist to you, isn't to them. Because that ad, to that population, has ZERO connotations to whites making blacks slaves.

          Consider this: Watching television shows from the 60s or 70s, you will see massively different cultural values. Let's go back even further, and look at white actors donning a black face to play a black role, rather than actually hiring a black actor. These days, you and I look at that with horror, because of TODAY's culture. But back then? It was completely acceptable.

          I'm not sure if you ever studied sociology in school, but if you had, one of the first things they would've told you about studying other cultures is that you cannot judge them by your own culture's standards.

          A lot of things that Japan does in their media, would seem bizarre by american standards. But they're normal and acceptable in Japan.

          So in a country like the Netherlands, which is not currently split along racial lines like america is, and which doesn't have a large population of slave-descendants, contrasting a white and black person isn't seen as racist. Especially since the whole point of the ad is to contrast the colors of the two devices. Also, you're using the term 'violence' rather liberally. There's nothing violent going on in any of the photos. Racism is universal? Debatable, mostly because the standards of what constitutes as racism change between cultures. America's values are not the world's values, and that you would insist that they are screams of arrogance.

          One last thing:
          Ask yourself this, if the billboard had been an ad for some MMA game, showing a photo from an actual, real life MMA fight, in which one fighter was striking another fighter of a different color, clearly in the dominant position, would it be racist?

            +1 this. Cultural Values Dissonance - the rest of the world is far more different from yours than you can imagine. I remember when these ads came out. I didn't hear of a single complaint from in the Netherlands - and I looked for it because I found the whole situation fascinating - all complaints came from America (and other English colony countries?)

          Even if the American super sensitivity towards racism were to apply here, I think the worst thing is that the author called the black lady in the ad, 'African American'. Why assume that she's American, particularly since the advertisement was produced by a Japanese company for the Netherlands exclusively.

          Just say 'black', people. It's not racist.

        As I've mentioned further down the page: the Dutch pretty much pioneered black slavery. They've got a much longer history of it going on that the U.S.

          Jeez, thank god there's at least one person who isn't into the whole hand-wringing culture of seeing racism everywhere. If the roles had been reversed, with a black woman grabbing a white guy's face and the caption "black is coming", nobody would have batted an eyelid. Yes, people have different skin colours. No, it's not racism to point that out and use it for artistic effect. If all the people shrieking about racism in the media put in as much effort into combatting actual racism, the world would be a much better place.

        I'm glad someone else picked up the pro-american bias here. It's a Japanese company advertising in Europe, but apparently anyone black is African American. It's in no way a good ad; implying there was another color version available without the implied violence would have probably been better.

    The "white is Coming" one is not actually racist, it just has a racist reading for the US market, for which it was never intended. The reality was that it's just an arty photo done for a country that does not have the history of having a giant domestic population of slaves that they built their country on... unlike the US. -(conveniently forgetting about their colonies of course)

      I don;t think you ahve to imply slavery for it to be racist....more "raaaggghh! Im gonna get you cuz your black!"

        This ad is racist however I don't see why the African....is American? I thought it was for Holland. I'm not sure if that slant of it was put in by the author of this article or not.

      The Dutch are reputedly the first to bring African slaves to North America. Much of the famed Dutch maritime mercantile system (I'm sure you've heard of the East India Company) was built on the backs of black slaves. I would think it's probably just as offensive in the Netherlands as in the United States.

      Perhaps I need a history lesson. I always thought it was often Dutch vessels that carried slaves to North America. Not to mention the ties to Africa and the inherent racism of some white people there. So if anything the advertising is worse at it potentially shows that the Dutch still haven't 'got it' in regards to their views of black people.

    Best article in a while haha. Nice job Lisa

    All the companies' responses were.. "I'm so sorry" But the ONE that directly involved women, and only women being abused, was making excuses for itself; implying that everybody just took it the wrong way, and it wasn't really offensive at all. That is sexism, alive & well. Having half-naked women serve grapes wasn't even mentioned, but oh- the dead animal raised such ire!
    And racism anywhere in the world is inexcusable; using people to illustrate a dichotomy of black & white dehumanises the two models, and promotes racism.

    This article reminds me of Cracked. I love Cracked.

    If I remember correctly, Sony have been responsible for a LOT of offensive campaigns and subsequently accused of putting them out there just so they would be all over the news. The only ones I can think of right now though are the racist stereotypes used in the PSP ads.

    Don't know much about the 'white is coming' add, but sometimes i think part of these controversies is due to lack of cultural translation, alongside the ignorance/incompetence of whoever is making the marketing decision.

    Makes me think of the uproar in America about the KFC ad shown in Australia during one of the Windies tours. IIRC it was an Aussie getting heckled by some windies fans so he shared his KFC with them to quiet them down. Apparently black people loving chicken is a hugely racists stereotype in the US and they couldn't believe we'd show something like that on TV. Pretty sure the same ad would've been done with any nation's fans, we just happened to be playing the windies.

    Don't think it was even noticed as potentially racist in Australia until the uproar filtered across the Pacific.

      Yeah I remember that! It was so weird, I never would have picked the ad as racist or offensive at all, that outrage from America was very surprising.

    This was a fun trip down memory lane. Although I missed that Dante's Inferno one first time around. I think I feel more embarrassed than outraged.

    This is a classic example of 'Purple Cow thinking' gone wrong .
    A few years ago every CEO I worked for was into reading these self empowering books on how to
    get your brand to stand out above the crowd. Be unique and different even shockingly so, but with
    an edge so that your branding will forever be remembered in the halls of fame, Like Apple! And KFC!

    These guys probably went a bit too far over the edge.

    I was worried when I saw a picture of a Virtual Boy at the start. Glad Lisa chose not to go there :P

    But at least with those first two, I don't really see how they are all that offensive. Hadn't heard of the LBP one til now, but I never understood the GoW one back when it happened either. At least with LBP I don't see how it's a death threat at all (though that could just be Lisa's interpretation), all it's saying is that all life will come to an end at some point. Which, uh, it does. What was the big deal there, and would there be an uproar if one of the songs contained lyrics that said something about all things coming to an end? The GoW one is still just people looking at and complaining about specific events while completely ignoring their context. I hate people sometimes.

    Congrats. Kotaku has now turned into Cracked!

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