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Is This Video Game Launch The Dumbest Publicity Stunt Of All-Time?

Submitted by on March 7, 2011 – 9:51 amOne Comment

Video game publisher THQ is making headlines today. Which is exactly what they intended to do when they launched a publicity stunt recently for their new game, Homefront, which hits stores on March 15. But now they’re making headlines for all the wrong reasons thanks to a move that could potentially hurt sales of the game and the reputation of THQ.

The plan they had in mind originally was pretty simple. Homefront is a game set in the year 2027 that sees North Korea invading the United States. So they decided to hold a mock protest against the game’s North Korean army by releasing 10,000 red balloons into the air in San Francisco. This would surely catch the eye of S.F. residents and get people talking—which, in turn, would result in free promotion for Homefront.

See? Pretty simple. Except that they clearly didn’t think the plan through or consider how it could go wrong. And it did end up going wrong…terribly wrong. Shortly after the balloons were released into the air last week, they were bogged down by the rain and fog that typically surrounds the area and began to fall back down to earth. Many of them landed in the bay in San Francisco, with red balloons clearly dotting the surface of the water. That got people talking as intended, but it got them talking about WTF was going on and why the bay was suddenly being polluted.

Shortly after it happened, Gamestop—a video game company that had its’ name plastered on the side of the balloons—claimed that they had nothing to do with the stunt and passed the blame on to THQ. THQ admitted that they had executed the idea and even apologized and offered to clean up the mess ASAP, but they also tried getting out of the mess by releasing a statement that said that people didn’t need to worry because the balloons were biodegradable. Obviously, that didn’t set well with some environmentalists, who shot back and said that, biodegradable or not, the balloons were a real danger to the local ecosystem.

This is a FAIL on all levels. Gamestop shouldn’t have lent their name out to a promotion that they had no involvement with at all. THQ shouldn’t have come up with such a boneheaded idea in the first place. And once everything went awry, they should have had the decency to apologize, admit that the idea was a bad one and clean up their mess without trying to make excuses.

They didn’t, though, which now makes this publicity stunt one of the dumbest that we’ve seen in recent times. And we’ve been paying close attention to Charlie Sheen and the reeeeee-diculous publicity stunt he’s pulling right now, so that’s really saying something. You guys wanted to be in the news—and now you are. Just try better next time to make sure it’s for the right reason.

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