Back in the past, video game companies took more risks when it came to promoting their game, and if it means bouncing far beyond the boundaries of tact and taste, you know they’d do it. If you thought some of these magazine ads were scandalous enough, then you won’t believe what they tried to get away with in this list…
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Westwood Studios’ real-time strategy game Command & Conquer was a international best-seller and received much praise from critics and gamers alike, though some were a bit put off by their ad promoting the game (it featured images of infamous politicals figures throughout history, along with the tagline ‘Previou High Scores’).
The sequel was set in an alternate timeline, where World War II never happened and the Soviet Empire was ready to wage war with the Allies. So, what did Westwood settle on when it came to promoting the game? A bit of casual racism against the Germans, of course! It doesn’t really say much about the title, rather it asks whether you’d want to give ‘em “a bloody good hiding”.
Technically, they’re not even the bad guys in the game, but let’s move on anyway…
After roughly a decade in development, the futuristic flight-sim shooter Battlecruiser 3000 was essentially dead-on-arrival. Or, to be more specific, a buggy beta on release. A rushed release and an awkward court case certainly did it no favours for the developers, and the game suffered as a result.
Since marketing teams were keen on showing off their games without actually sharing anything from them, settling for cheesy taglines and eye-catching images instead, THQ settled on an image of model Joanne Guest wearing leather boots and bra, but no panties! Holding the game between her legs, the tagline smugly boats ‘She Really Wants It’.
As the saying goes, ‘sex sells’. Well, at least it sold some copies…
Destruction Derby 2
Stock car racing on the PlayStation came in the form of Destruction Derby 2, a half-decent vehicular destruction title by British developers Psygnosis (best known as the creators of the Wipeout series). While the development time was a tad short, they decided to take the original game and reinvent it in ways, by improving the physics engine and making the visuals look more realistic, while giving it an American-feel in the form of an annoying Yank announcer.
Those wackjobs at marketing thought the best way to promote a high-octane game was to pair up a dorky race car driver and his busted ride with a group of leather-bound ladies armed with kinky whips, chains and a sledgehammer, describing the experience as “Extreme Punishment For Cars, Extreme Pleasure For Gamers”.
You can probably guess by now that game companies and publishers just loved the idea of titillating impressionable readers with slogans and images that’d fool parents into thinking they broke into their private magazine stash.
Harvester is, quite possibly, one of the strangest point-and-click games ever conceived. It was a last-minute idea for DigiFX Interactive: an adventure game set in a 1950s American town full of serial killers.
This FMV-centric title was rife with social commentary regarding the depiction of violence and sex in society, among many other dicey and taboo topics. However, due to a two-year delay and some poor advertising choices, the game flopped and disappeared into obscurity after its release in 1996. Flash forward to present day, and the game has become a cult-classic thanks to a small but dedicated fanbase.
The developers were dead-keen on making it clear that this game was worthy of its self-proclaimed tagline “The Most Violent Adventure Game of All Time”. What they did to spook magazine readers was show an image with flowers, with a forewarning: “Take a good breath before the next page.” On the other side was a screenshot of an infamous cutscene where a baby’s eyes pop out of its sockets, with the caption “We warned you…”
“Tennis Without The Uncomfortable Locker Room Moments” – this awkward commercial speaks for itself.
Are there any other commercials that come to mind? Share your thoughts in the comments below!