5 Times The Games Industry Did Something Insane

There was a time when the games industry was a hive of creativity, with fresh, exciting ideas coming thick and fast. There’s still that element of creativity these days, but with money-hungry publishers running the show in a lot of cases, that creativity isn’t as at the forefront as it once was. Regardless of whether you’re in the AAA or indie sphere, there are plenty of cases of the industry doing something that makes literally no sense.

From colossal marketing failures to absurd peripherals, there are more than a few instances of parts of the industry doing something utterly ridiculous, so here are five that I was particularly fond of for how short-sighted the people involved must have been.

The Power Glove

The Power Glove was a neat idea that had absolutely no hope of being a worthwhile gaming device in the late 80s. It was a simplified version of the Dataglove and had the potential to use motion controls. On top of that, there were regular buttons on the wrist of the glove to allow for standard control inputs, as well some options to alter the input in a variety of ways. A great idea!

Power glove
This is literally a quote from the Nintendo produced film The Wizard.

But by god was the execution a joke. There were only two games released that made use of its unique controls, and I believe they could be played with a regular controller anyway. The Power Glove could be used for any game of course, but you’d have to control it one handed if your other hand is inside the glove. Why did this need to exist?! And why was it so poorly supported?! Even the 32X had better support.

PSP Marketing Campaign

Ooooooh, boy. There’s short-sighted, and then there’s this marketing campaign. So Sony’s PSP was released in late 2004/early 2005 depending on where you lived. It was their foray into the portable gaming market, as well as having the option to watch movies on it using UMDs. Some of the games were pretty solid too! Yep, the little black portable gaming console was pretty good. So why not release a white version? Good idea! How should we advertise it?

Playstation portable
How about like this?

Now, my blog isn’t really the place to get a discussion on racism, but by god is poor! A white woman aggressively clutching a black man’s face with the slogan ‘White is coming’ emblazoned on the banner. Did anyone spend even a minute thinking about this? It’s hardly Sony’s only poor taste advertising campaign either. From the rather off-feeling squirrel advert to the blatantly sexist PSVita ads, it seems Sony could do with a half-sane advertising team on hand.

Arham Knight’s PC Release

How in the name of hell did Batman: Arkham Knight release on PC in such a state. The console versions ran perfectly well, even if some people felt it was weaker than previous games in the series. The PC version though. That was broken beyond belief. Audio glitches, broken visual elements, framerate drops (in spite of the 30FPS lock) on even powerful computers. These sort of things shouldn’t have happened.

Batman
I’m sure it could look very impressive on PC, assuming it worked well enough to play.

Now, I fully understand that different PCs will run games better than others due to the enormous number of combinations of hardware and software, but the number of people reporting a near on unplayable experience was pretty significant. I can’t imagine that Warner Bros. and Rocksteady weren’t aware of at least some of these issues. Still, it was released regardless, to about as good a reception from the PC gaming crowd as you might expect. Releasing in this state was sheer madness. Thankfully they took it down from sale and worked on an improved version, although even the re-release of it was far from perfect.

Various Game Adverts

I tried to narrow it down to just one or two, but there were so many! Most were from EA, but they were hardly the only culprit when it comes to just plain stupid advertising campaigns. Burnout 2‘s marketing campaign offered to pay your speeding fine if you were caught breaking the limit whilst driving to buy a copy of the game. Shadowman 2 offered to put adverts on the graves of your dead family members. EA hired fake protestors to promote the forthcoming Dante’s Inferno who claimed to be from Christian groups. Short-sighted, dumb, and in some cases offensive.

Dead Space 2
Oh look, someone who clearly isn’t interested in horror games doesn’t like something in a horror game.

The one that annoyed me the most though, was the Dead Space 2 campaign that showed various mothers reacting to some of the graphic ways in which Isaac Clarke could die. They’ve clearly picked people who would react poorly to the graphic imagery and close out the advert with “Your mom hates Dead Space 2“. As far as I’m concerned this is just plain insulting to gamin generally. Don’t promote your game on the quality of it! Promote it on how edgy it is and how much it’ll piss off your stuck-in-the-past parents! Idiots. On top of everything else, it suggests that they were trying to promote the games to people who would be perhaps younger than the age rating on it, which is poor form to my mind. Screw this!

Announcing the Saturn Before Releasing 32X

Why would you do this?! You’re releasing a new add-on to your 16-bit console that will allow for 32-bit gaming! Fantastic! Some good games too by the looks of it. Nice work there. Ok, now how about you announce that your real 32-bit console, the Saturn, will release in Japan on the same day as the US-release of your new peripheral…

Sega Mega Drive
It was kind of a smart idea really. It’s a shame that it was gazumped by another system’s release.

To put this together, Sega released their new console and a peripheral for their 16-bit would be released on the same day. This was damaging to both systems (moreso the 32X of course) and, in the words of then Sega of America producer Scot Bayless, made Sega “look greedy and dumb to consumers”. It’s almost as bad as Microsoft saying that people without internet had a great alternative to the Xbox One in the form of the Xbox 360. People are clever…

I was quite tempted to go into the ridiculously misleading Dead Island trailer, or how crazy the release of a TV tuner for the Game Gear was, but I only have so much time for writing. What crazy things have you seen the games industry do in their every growing need to claw at every penny available? Let me know! There must be a few fun ones.

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38 thoughts on “5 Times The Games Industry Did Something Insane

  1. Most of mine play off your Batman. No Man’s Sky release vs. what it was ‘supposed to’ be. The HoI III release (whew!). The Total War Rome 2 (or however you combine those words ) release.

    However, the KING right now is Gallop making his Phoenix Point an Epic games exclusive… after it was already backed, plus being backed for Steam keys. He has released the monumental Ire of… well, basically, he’s released the Kraken.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I didn’t realise Phoenix Point was going to be Epic exclusive. I’m not surprised people are annoyed (I’ll buy it regardless because XCOM). The whole trailer vs release thing is absurd. No one can watch a trailer and believe that’s what they’ll get anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. .

        I didn’t know that there was a gaming gadget like The Power Glove. I think it would fetch a good price as a collector’s item now?

        Sony got colorful when they featured an albino girl squeezing a black boy’s face to advertise the PSP. I really found it silly and yeah just plain racist. I guess they do better with making exclusives.

        Lucky I played Batman: Arkham Knight on PS4.

        I’ve been hearing so much things about EA and their shady marketing efforts but I never thought that they’d go that far as to hiring fake protestors to make a game controversial and build hype. Naughty EA.

        Last one was one of the reasons why SEGA decided to back off from the console wars.

        Honestly, your article had me wanting more.

        Brilliant post!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you. I do wonder about the power glove. I can’t imagine many people bought it so they must be reasonably valuable from a collection standpoint. It’s quite amazing to think that a useless peripheral is more valuable than the useful ones!

        Like

  2. Sometimes I wonder how massive corporations like Sony and EA can put out such ads. I still remember the stir over that PSP one. You’d think with all their resources, these guys would be able to afford to run focus groups or employ at least one marketing official with some common sense. Even worse, the one about paying people’s speeding tickets could potentially expose the company to legal liability.

    SEGA had some pretty awful ads over here in the early 90s, but at least they could back up their boasts with solid games on a solid console. The 32X is a total mystery, though.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You say “out of touch”, but I bet everyone around at the time still remembers that Sega ad from Viz with the dude who looks like he’s whacking off but is actually playing a Game Gear. As questionable as that might be, it certainly was effective in terms of brand awareness! Even if that didn’t translate to sales.

        Poor Game Gear.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I do think that, overall, the medium of gaming is better now than it ever was because the creativity developers had back in the eighties was something of a double-edged sword. One could argue there was more innovation back then, but there was also a distinct lack of focus to it, and many of the team didn’t really consider how the experiences would pan out from the players’ perspective, having not grown up with the medium. Plus, I would also argue that greed was always there; it just manifested in different ways from the poorly made games bearing a famous movie license to selling things such as the Power Glove that were nigh useless.

    Admittedly, if it’s one thing I kind of miss, it’s the ads; they seemed to be much more energetic back then. Oh, and they generally weren’t blatantly racist either – seriously, what the hell was the PSP marketing team thinking? Were there drugs involved? It would be unfortunate if they came up with this sober. At best, it would suggest a startling lack of common sense.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As I said, I absolutely do not miss the days in which I could waste $60 on a terrible game based on a famous film. The internet basically shut down that strategy, which is for the best. Microtransactions are pretty dire too, but they received a lot of bad press from the word go, so hopefully that means they won’t do too much damage.

        And no, I have not heard of that debacle. With no further context, it seems like a bit of an overreaction.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Micro transactions can be alright to an extent, unless you’re able to buy power. I also don’t have a huge issue with DLC, unless it’s those times when they’ve clearly cut content from the main game (see most fighting games).

        Apparently Japan are really opposed to famous people doing things wrong in any way. They’re pulling the game to re-record the voice lines from what I’ve heard.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. If you’re an entertainer in Japan – really, any public figure – you know that if you are caught using illegal drugs you will be pretty much unpersoned. I feel bad for everyone else who worked on the game but there’s no way this came as a surprise to the actor in question.

        Moreover, the Japanese police do not play favorites for famous people. Paul McCartney famously spent ten days in jail and then got kicked out of Japan for marijuana possession, and I think they only recently lifted the ban on him re-entering the country.

        (In general it is best to avoid any negative interactions with Japanese police. The legal system works on the basis of “why would an innocent person ever be arrested?” and goes from there.)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. They clearly have very strict laws. I heard one commentator reference a Japanese entertainer (don’t know who) getting kicked off a project for merely being accused of using cocaine!

        Like

      5. I did once rent a terrible SNES game based off of Beethoven’s 2nd, though I don’t think I ever bought any bad licensed game with my own money (and if I did, it was so I could bash it in a review). I also once played a game based on Quest for Camelot as a kid, which is weird because I never saw the film.

        Liked by 2 people

      6. Ah! Now I think of it I did borrow the Home Alone 2 game from someone, and that was pretty dreadful. I think I was much like you in that I didn’t buy terrible games myself. I don’t think I’ve heard of the Quest for Camelot game.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. The Home Alone 2 PC game was pretty awful; I think I was only able to beat the game with a cheat code. I reviewed Quest for Camelot some time ago; it’s basically an incompetent version of Link’s Awakening.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Just arrived here from the Later Levels blog party 😊.
    That PSP ad… Seriously! I mean it’s SO offensive its almost like some kind of twisted satire! But it’s not! I echo Red Metal and think they must have all been on drugs lol. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Creating controversy out of nothing seemed to get eyes on a variety of games they published (although Diablo wasn’t one of them!) but I’m not sure how well it translated into sales. I don’t think Dante’s Inferno sold that well really.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Custer’s Revenge. The less we write about it the better, but we should never forget.

    On a more obscure note, Luftwaffe Commander, a mediocre combat sim released in 1999. The game which had a campaign for the Nazis only, where swastikas appeared not just on planes (historically accurate), but in the menus (and they were quite huge), where you could participate in the bombing of Guernica, one of the most notorious war crimes of the 20th century, where one mission briefing had you German commander finish his speech with “let’s show those Americans who owns Europe” and all the pilots (presumably also the player) applaud. The cherry on the cake was the end cinematic: a damaged German fighter flying towards the sunset, a cheap sentimental tune playing in the background, with scrolling text informing about all the casualties and suffering of the German Luftwaffe… without a single word about innocent victims of their air raids. All this in a game released not but a bunch of trolls or an unknown studio, but by the venerable SSI company.

    I think the only reason why all this didn’t cause a huge scandal was the relative obscurity of flight sims, and also the fact that game journalism was far less politicised back then. Still, after 20 years I can’t understand why this game was published.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! I hadn’t heard of that! Considering SSI were THE flight sim company back in the day I find that quite surprising. Still, it’s an interesting look at how gaming has changed over the years. You definitely couldn’t get away with releasing that now.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. While I get that many would believe the Power Glove was cool, I think that it was quite useless. Personally, I find using a controller one-handed very difficult. So, this would complicate things for me!

    Liked by 1 person

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