These days, we have the internet to thank for keeping up to tabs on the latest or upcoming video games. In the past, however, many gamers relied on magazines for previews, reviews, and cheats. If you thought the adverts of today could be both ridiculous and potentially offensive, then you’d best prepare yourself for this list!
Command & Conquer
War! What is it good for? Well, real-time strategy games, for one thing. Westwood Studios’ Command & Conquer really put the genre on the map with its blend of base-building, resource management and troop deployment. Throw in a few religious and sci-fi themes and coat it with plenty of explosions and cheesy FMV cutscenes, and what you get is a thoroughly engrossing best-seller.
The company decided to go for a ballsy move with an ad featuring images of infamous politicals figures throughout history, ranging from recognizable Socialist and Fascist dictators like Hitler and Stalin, to modern day politicians like President of France Jacques Chirac (who was criticized for the nuclear tests going on at the time). Within the collage was the tagline ‘Previous High Scores’.
Naturally, it stirred up a fair bit of controversy. French newspaper Le Monde said the article “caused scandal”, while British newspaper The Independent wrote in 1995 that the advert was “crass, ignorant and stupid”, and even added “ [we hope] Mr Chirac sues you for every penny you have”.
No matter how hard journalists cried, it didn’t stop the game from becoming a critical and commercial success. Two words: mission accomplished.
Quake III Arena
id Software’s multiplayer shooter Quake III Arena was ported to the Dreamcast by Raster Productions. What made the port special was that you could even battle with PC players online, being one of the earliest examples of cross-play at the time. Nevertheless, it still delivered a frantic multiplayer experience for SEGA fans to enjoy.
So, the question is, who honestly thought it was a great idea to advertise this first-person shooter with an image of an unfertilized egg surrounded by sperm cells, paired with the smug caption ‘Come One, Come All’? The ad also cheekily quips ‘It’s been a long time since you were involved in a free-for-all of this magnitude.’
Sounds like it was written by a bored teenager in Biology class.
British developers Psygnosis created the futuristic racing title Wipeout to reel in Electronica fans and nightclub goers. Despite being inspired by the likes of Mario Kart, this game specialized in exhilarating races, fluorescent lighting and lots of explosions, all of which was accompanied by a thumping techno soundtrack.
The marketing team hired English TV presenter and radio DJ Sara Cox to pose for an ad as a gamer with a bloody nose looking stunned and bewildered at a television set. However, its tagline “A Dangerous Game” made people think she and the other model had overdosed on ecstasy. Rumours implied that the ‘E’ in the game’s title was capitalized as a reference to the drug, but not even the developers thought that.
Once again, it didn’t deter players from flocking to the game. Wipeout proved to be a smash hit, resulting in many sequels to come.
What if DOOM was an RPG? There’s already an answer to that, and it’s called Strife. Running on a modified version of the DOOM engine, you play as a mercenary who teams up with a resistance group to battle against a zealous cult in the small town of Tarnhill. It had a fairly open-world to explore with NPCs to interact with, not to mention numerous quests that required both full-on action and stealth.
3DO Studios wanted to make it clear that a shooter like this required both brains and brawn. Their way of getting the message across was via a tongue-in-cheek recipe. The ingredients were as follows: a medium-sized brain, and a big pair of gonads. In fact, the recipe suggests blenderizing the real thing and sipping on it during gameplay.
Only the toughest gamers with a complete disregard for salmonella would do exactly that.
SEGA Game Gear
When it came to handheld consoles, Nintendo’s Game Boy went on to sell well over 100 million units globally. SEGA tried to compete with the Game Gear, but they were only able to sell roughly 10 million of their own devices. Who knows how much they would’ve sold if they opted for a more tasteful adverts, unlike this corker.
The ad is filled with suggestive lines and double-entendres, implying it’s “something to do with your hands that won’t make you go blind”, and “the more you play with it, the harder it gets”. If that wasn’t cringy enough, there’re even drawings of a naked dude fiddling with his pelvis… only to reveal that he’s holding a Game Gear there, which are covering up his private parts.
Well, SEGA always boasted that they did what Ninten-DON’T, not like it paid off for them in this case…
Are there any other commercials that come to mind? Share your thoughts in the comments below!