The video game industry has always had its fair share of PR mishaps, or disasters in some cases, which typically lead to a particular fan base or group of gamers being offended or turned off to a piece of hardware or video game. While some of these PR flubs may be further fueled by fanboys trolling for reactions, many are in fact quite troubling to the companies that spawned them. A recent PR issue arose at E3 2014 concerning Ubisoft’s handling of Assassin’s Creed Unity’s lack of female assassin characters in the multiplayer mode, which had many gamers outraged with the oversight. While the financial impact of the mishandling is still to be realized, Ubisoft did eventually reveal that a female character named Elise will be in the game, but it’s not clear if she was crowbarred in as a reaction to the community’s outcries. Regardless, Ubisoft felt the pain and course corrected, which many companies do after a major PR debacle.
There are five PR disasters in particular that stand out as being very memorable, and while not all of them led to grave financial losses, each definitely had an impact on the product or game that was involved. Some are severe enough that they nearly led to the downfall of gaming, while others only ended up tarnishing the rep of the company and eventually worked themselves out. The five PR disasters we chose span nearly thirty years, but a majority all took place within the past eight years, so they should still be fresh in your mind. Head on down below to find out which video game PR disaster takes the top spot!
5. Ubisoft Calls Out GTA V in a Watch Dogs Ad and Then Delays the Game
During the fall of 2013 Ubisoft released a scathing ad for Watch Dogs that essentially called out GTA V’s Los Santos by saying that two months is enough time to spend in that digital city, so gamers should get ready for the November launch of Watch Dogs and forget that GTA V even happened. It was definitely a clever ad and gained Watch Dogs even more hype, but someone in Ubisoft marketing should have checked with the developers first, because the game ended up getting delayed six months and didn’t even ship until the end of May this year.
The ad made Ubisoft look foolish, and fueled the spurn gamers felt over the latest delay of Watch Dogs. Luckily for Ubisoft, this PR disaster didn’t end up tanking the game as it did sell like hotcakes at release. If anything, this particular mishap may have led to lower review scores of Watch Dogs because many gamers felt it was too over hyped and that the six month delay actually made the game look worse.
4. Sony’s PS3 E3 Reveal
In 2006 Sony revealed the PS3 to the world at E3, but the event was nothing but one PR disaster after the next. The $599 price point ensured that only a certain population of gamers would be able to afford the console at launch, which contributed to the PS3’s slow adoption rate over the first few year’s of its life, and helped Microsoft’s Xbox 360 become a major player in the video game console race. The use of a cell processor also shocked the industry because no developer had ever designed a game for that architecture, which led to a weak lineup of third party games for the PS3 at launch and beyond. There’s also the infamous RIDGE RACER and giant crab memes that spawned from this Sony event, which Kaz Hirai will never live down thanks to YouTube.
By the time the last generation of consoles came to a close the PS3 actually had a slightly larger install base than the Xbox 360, so in reality the E3 PR disaster didn’t harm the PS3 for good, but it definitely stalled its growth out of the gate and remains as a memorable moment in video game PR history.
3. Microsoft’s Xbox One E3 Reveal
The latest generation of consoles were all the rage at E3 2013, but the topic on everyone’s mind was Microsoft’s press event, which was full of damning policies for the Xbox One that still resonate with gamers today, even though Microsoft has since flip-flopped its stance on them. The Xbox team got on stage and let the world know that the Xbox One would cost $100 more than the PS4 thanks to the forced inclusion of Kinect 2.0. They let us know that it wouldn’t allow gamers to trade games. They were even bold enough to state that the console had to be connected to the Internet to work! All of these curios policies definitely turned off loyal Xbox 360 fans to the idea of sticking with MS during the next round of gaming console releases, which has directly led to the PS4’s impressive sales figures, which just reached 10 million units sold. Microsoft hasn’t even updated the sales figures for the Xbox One, which means they’re probably not great, but many industry analysts peg the total to be ~5 million units sold.
Microsoft did recognize the error of its ways and changed its stance on all of the polarizing Xbox One policies, but the damage was already done. Many equate this E3 disaster to what Sony experienced with the PS3 back in 2006, so in the end the Xbox One and Microsoft may flourish, but as of right now the gaming public has spoken and the clear winner in this generation so far is the PS4.
2. Nintendo Ditches Sony’s CD-Drive for the SNES
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Nintendo had a partnership with Sony to develop a CD-ROM drive attachment for the SNES, but due to licensing agreements that partnership was nixed and Nintendo decided to work with Philips on a CD-ROM drive for the SNES. Sony took the work it did for Nintendo and turned it into the company’s first gaming console offering, the PlayStation.
At the time no one knew that Sony had just created the soon-to-be highest selling gaming console line in history with the PS1 and PS2, so Nintendo probably didn’t think twice about spurning the Japanese gadget maker, but with some hindsight it’s clear to see that Nintendo essentially created its greatest competitor in the video game space by not using Sony’s CD-Drive for the SNES. Since then Sony has gone on to dominate in the console arena, and it wasn’t until the PS3 era that it took a hit in its market share. Even with the disastrous PS3 reveal the console still went on to sell over 80 million units, and the PS4 has sold 10 million in less than a year, so Sony’s PlayStation brand is doing quite well, but it may never have existed if Nintendo didn’t kick them to the curb back in the early 90’s.