Monday, February 08, 2010

The Dickferno

Let's briefly look at some of the marketing efforts behind EAs new game, Dante's Inferno:

June: demonstrators at E3 protesting the "anti-Christian" message of the game are revealed to, in fact, be actors hired by EA to stage the protest.

July: at Comic-Con, ran a contest described thusly:
In an effort to promote the title at last week's San Diego Comic-Con event, EA decided to run a contest asking showgoers to "commit acts of lust" with any models working at the convention's myriad booths. They were then instructed to submit photos via social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook. The winner would receive "dinner and a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi and a chest full of booty," while five runners-up would have to make do with a copy of the game, a $240 gift card and assorted game merchandise.

I suggested a contest title of "Gaming Bros versus Hos," but I guess they didn't get my e-mail, because marketing would have thought that idea was shit hot.

Date unknown: a group of gaming publications were sent "severed arm" cakes. Seriously, I'd try harder to find the exact date, but I just don't care.

September: sending $200 checks to to editors of various gaming publications, with this note attached:
By cashing this check you succumb to avarice by hoarding filthy lucre but by not cashing it, you waste it, and thereby surrender to prodigality.

I was seriously waiting for an editor to say they cashed the check and used it to subscribe to Gamefly so they wouldn't have to buy EA games. Then I realized that they get them for free, anyway, so this wasn't funny.

November: a satirical advertisement for a game called Mass, We Pray:
Last week's satirical advertisement for Mass: We Pray, which featured cross-shaped motion controllers and gameplay modes like 'baptism' and 'ring the tower bell', has turned out to be another bit of sneaky marketing for EA's upcoming Dante's Inferno.

I'm pretty sure that ringing the tower bell got a few people thrown out of divinity school.

There are seven deadly sins, so there were seven marketing stunts to correspond. I'd list which stunt matched up to which sin, and I'd find the other two (I've only got five here), but seriously, I'm tired of looking.

Just reading about these marketing stunts makes my brain feel like it's been keelhauled.

Look, EA, and this is something I didn't understand when I was twenty, there's a fine line between edgy and complete asshole.

Wait, that's not quite what I mean.

What I should have said was it's very, very difficult to be edgy, but it's easy to be an asshole. And boy, has EA been easy with the marketing for this game.

As it turns out, this is an excellent test case in the ongoing hypothetical battle between style and substance, because EA has pushed this game hard. While I don't quite understand what demographic they were targeting with the "sins stunts"--maybe the douchebag demographic, I guess--there's no question that they're pushing. Incredibly, they even paid for a commercial during the Super Bowl. They've done everything they can to convince us that this game is edgy and hip--the hottest thing going, so to speak.

Of course, if you played the demo, you know it's basically shit. Great, epic art style in the cut scenes (really, it's wonderful), but the gameplay and style of the actual game are spectacularly non-spectacular. Flaccid. Dante's Flaccid Inferno would have been an excellent title, based on the demo.

It's too bad that we can't name our hero, because if I could name him "Jonathan Flaccid," I would totally buy the game. Then, I could have hopefully seen text dialogue like "Flaccid, enter the Inferno!"

No, not "Dick Flaccid." I'm not ten, people. I'm at least twelve. Although I do like the sound of "Dick Limply" and reserve the right to use it later.

Based on the demo, I felt like this was a "C" game, at best, and based on a metric ton of Metacritic reviews, that's how the full game rates. So now we get to find out, after Super Bowl ads and EB midnight launches (seriously, have those jumped the shark or what?), whether marketing can be the ultimate deflaccidator.

Yeah, don't bother looking that one up.

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