Bad Company 2 & French Army Ads Square Off

February 25, 2010 -

As part of a campaign designed to boost recruitment, the French Army introduced a new campaign that uses the slogan “Devenez vous-même” or “Be Yourself,” and directs interested parties to visit the website DevenezVousMeme.com.

The French Army ad appears to have caught the eye of Electronic Arts, as an article on LusoGamer (translated) points out that an ad for Battlefield: Bad Company 2 appears to have somewhat appropriated the French Army slogan. The similarities were not very difficult to notice as the giant ads appeared right next to each other (picture) in a French subway station. EA’s ad directed users towards the (inactive) website DevenezPlusQueVous-meme.com, which translates to “Be More Than Yourself.”

Army General Philippe Pontiès didn’t find much humor in the matter, telling French website Ecrans (translated) that:

We are clearly in a situation of abuse of slogan. So far, our campaign is working very well, we have very good returns.

The General also noted that the army has been advertising in videogames, with good results, and, ironically enough, has advertised in select EA game, such as NHL 10, NBA Live 10 and Need For Speed Pro Street. The General made it clear that the Army advertises only in racing or sports games, never army or military-themed games.

The ad appropriation issue has apparently been resolved through dialog between the Army’s agency and Electronic Arts.


Thanks Emanuel!

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Dante’s Inferno “Go to Hell” Super Bowl Ad Rejected by CBS

February 2, 2010 -

A Super Bowl advertisement for Electronic Arts’ Dante’s Inferno game has fallen victim to CBS censors.

An original version of the ad had utilized the tagline “Go to Hell,” but that phrase was deemed to over the top for viewers of this Sunday’s big game and CBS rejected it. The Hollywood Reporter blog reports that EA will instead substitute the more sedate tagline “Hell Awaits” instead.

Another HR blog showcases a few more rejected Super Bowl ads and asks “What's a better value: spending $3 million plus production costs to air a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl or saving that $3 million when standards and practices lawyers at CBS reject the ad and everyone talks about the commercial anyway?”

Tim Tebow’s Super Bowl spots, paid for by Focus on the Family, are still set to air despite protests from pro-choice groups.


Thanks JT!

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Nintendo UK Ads Win Dubious Distinction

January 20, 2010 -

Nintendo’s UK television spots featuring the comedy team Anthony “Ant” McPartlin and Declan “Dec” Donnelly have made a list of the most irritating ads of 2009.

Marketing Magazine assembled the list of irksome ads, assigning Nintendo to 9th place, in a tie with a campaign for Country Life put together by the agency Grey London. Karmarama produced the Nintendo spots, some of which can be viewed here on EnjoyNintendo.

Is it a positive for a brand to make a list like this or not?

Saatchi & Saatchi’s Director of Strategy Richard Huntington was asked by Marketing Magazine for his take on the subject and indicated that, while the ads are certainly memorable, whether “they can form part of a sustainable communication strategy remains to be seen.

Or, as Marketing Magazine interprets, “once a brand has done its best to irritate consumers it is difficult to see where the creative approach goes next.”


|Via MCVUK, Thanks Andrew|

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CSM: America’s Army Distorts Impressions of War

January 5, 2010 -

While the effectiveness of America’s Army as a recruiting tool is well documented, in light of the U.S. military meeting all of its recruiting goals for the first time in nearly 40 years, a Christian Science Monitor piece explores the consequences of recruitment devices which “ignore the psychological realities of war.”

America’s Army, the Army Experience Center and a relatively new graphic novel put out by the Navy to foster recruiting efforts among high school students, are promotions—which combined with a down economy and lack of jobs— have made joining the armed forces an answer for more and more young people:

The current recruiting tactics aimed at America’s youth are especially concerning. Not only do the very tactics that have been boosting recruitment sanitize war and create false expectations, they prey upon the vulnerable imaginations of children.

The article claims that the suicide rate among soldiers reached a post-Vietnam War high for the fifth year running.

The author concludes:

To be sure, Vets from World War II and Vietnam had shell shock and PTSD without video game recruitment, but targeting teens with video games and graphic novels that ignore the psychological realities of war is not the way to solve the recruitment problem at a time when the psychological health of those who are sent to Afghanistan and Iraq should be a top priority.

GP: More damning than America’ recruitment tools themselves may be a bit in the article where it’s noted that the Army is short some 300 substance abuse counselors and 800 behavioral specialists. Perhaps taxpayers can fund a new game aimed at attracting those types of personnel to the military.

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5 Worst Game Marketing Campaigns of 2009

December 23, 2009 -

Best of lists are so 1999.

While 2009 was a great year for gamers and an unbelievable quantity of great titles were released, there were some marketing tactics and campaigns that caused anger, dismay and head-scratching among consumers and the media alike.

Set on Stun, noting that these “are the ones that angried up our blood and became stains on the internet,” runs down the Top 5 Worst Videogame Marketing Campaigns of 2009.

Coming in at the top (the bottom?), was Evony, the online game with a litany of complaints against it, not the least of which is using advertising images featuring scantily clad females that have nothing to do with the actual game at all.

Set on Stun scathed:

you sued people who reported on your gold-spamming and malware, you spammed blogs with comments, you ripped off image assets from other games, you and your sniveling CEO complained about people shining the light on your deceptive practices.

Dante’s Inferno from Electronic Arts came in at number 2 on the list. The marketing campaign generated controversy at every step, causing Set on Stun to write, “Dante’s Inferno & EA seemed to try to piss off anyone who came even close to caring about their game, a game by all accounts, should be pretty kick-ass.”

The marketing for Dante’s Inferno was fascinating to watch unfold. Gamers, and even the media, became so rattled after a while, that every time a bizarre story surfaced on the Internet, people immediately wondered if it was a plant/front for the game. Sometimes it was.

Professional and industry opinions on the campaign were split as well, as witnessed in a bipolar Ars Technica headline for an excellent overview of almost everything Dante’s Inferno threw at the press.

Shoot even went so far as to name Wieden +Kennedy, the firm behind the Dante’s Inferno marketing, as its Agency of the Year.

Head over to Set on Stun to see the rest of the list.

Any other campaigns you can think of that didn’t make the list?

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Game Industry Scores Well in FTC Report

December 3, 2009 -

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) seventh report on Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children (PDF) contains good news for the videogame industry.

The FTC review labeled the games industry the "strongest” of the three entertainment sectors (games, music and movies), when it came to self-regulation. The Commission added that the game industry “did not specifically target M-rated games to teens or T-rated games to younger children.“ Additionally, compliance with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) code within the videogame industry was “high in all media.”

Undercover shopping stings run by the FTC reported that retailers were “strongly enforcing” age restrictions for M-rated games, with “an average denial rate of 80%.” GameStop and Target were labeled as top enforcers. Toys R Us however, was specifically labeled as trailing when it came to enforcement, with only a 56% denial rate. The report called the use of gift cards to buy games online a “potential gap in enforcement.”

On the advertising side, the FTC found that game companies demonstrated a “high degree of compliance” when it came to television ads, with only a “few instances” of non compliance over a more than two-year period. The same description was used to depict compliance with videogame print ads.

FTC suggestions aimed directly at the game industry were adding content descriptors to the front of videogames, alongside ratings, and to continue to provide more detailed rating summaries online for parents. Additionally, all three industries were told to pay more attention to compliance within online and viral marketing campaigns.

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) President and CEO Michael D. Gallagher was understandably happy about the report, saying, "Today's FTC report is a strong acknowledgement and validation that industry-led self-regulation efforts are the best way to provide parents and retailers with the resources and support they need to keep our kids' entertainment experiences suitable."

The ESA press release also included a quote from National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) head, Dr. David Walsh, who stated, “We join the FTC in applauding the industry's progress. The advancement in technology including parental controls by console makers, identification checking by retailers, and an ongoing effort to improve ratings illustrates that the members of the video game industry have taken our concerns seriously and continue to make sure that kids enjoy games that are age appropriate."

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Nielsen Weighs in with Boatload of MW2 Metrics

November 10, 2009 -

Definitive purchase intent for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (out today) is almost three times that of the average videogame title (21% to 8%) reports Nielsen.

Noting that buzz has “been consistently strong” for the title over the four weeks preceding its launch, the data gathering firm said that MW2 had unaided awareness levels in gamers six times higher than historical benchmark titles. Aided awareness numbers were almost triple that of the average videogame (71% to 26%).

46% of all gamers aware of MW2 reported seeing TV ads last week while 30% reported hearing info on the game from a friend or co-worker.

While an average game release has about 3% of gamers indicating they would pick up the title in the first week of release, the number jumps to 9-12% for MW2.

Nielsen said that households which purchased Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare “spend nearly 3 times the amount of money on video game purchases annually vs. the typical video game buying household,” making MW franchise fans “valuable, highly desirable customers at retail – which is perhaps why we see a concerted effort to entice them to not only purchase the game itself, but also special editions and limited-edition consoles.”

Count Ice T (pictured) among those who already picked up a limited edition version of Modern Warfare 2. (via GiantBomb)

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There’s More to Girl Gamers Than Pink and Sparkles

October 15, 2009 -

Videogame marketers still don’t know how to target girl gamers and continue to resort to stereotypes argues an article on Jezebel, which picks apart a recent Wall Street Journal article covering the same topic.

The WSJ article mentioned games like Charm Girls Club, Littlest Pet Shop, Just Dance and Wii Fit, along with a lilac-colored PSP Hannah Montana pack-in, inspiring the Jezebel author to respond:

Some of us like pink, some of us don't. Some of us have all the latest tech, some of us don't. Some of us prefer computer games, some of us don't. Getting the picture? We're all different.

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Study: Violent In-game Ads More Memorable to Players

September 4, 2009 -

New research indicates that in-game advertisement which feature violent elements may be more memorable to players than nonviolent ads.

MIT's Technology Review reports on the study conducted in part at the University of Luxemburg

[Researchers] developed a simple racing game called AdRacer... A player drives around a virtual course and scores points by hitting targets along the way--as she drives, unobtrusive graphical ads are displayed as billboard graphics... while a camera records her eye movements. After playing, each player's ability to recall of brands shown on the side of the road was tested.

 

Those who played a violent version of the game, where the goal was to run down pedestrians, resulting in a blood-splattered screen, demonstrated significantly better recall of advertised brands than those who played the regular version...

Of course, while violent ads may increase the player's memory of the product, they could also be a public relations disaster in the making. Technology Review notes that University of Luxemburg researchers have also found that ad violence can lessen a gamer's opinion of a brand.

GP: The screenshot at left is from the University of Luxemburg's AdRacer.

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Report: EA Backs Off Controversial Booth Babe Plan for Comic Con

July 27, 2009 -

Electronic Art has apparently backed off a Comic Con promotion which encouraged attendees to "Commit an act of lust" with booth babes hired for the event.

Negative Gamer reports on EA's mea culpa:

Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps[...]

We apologize for any confusion and offense that resulted from our choice of wording, and want to assure you that we take your concerns and sentiments seriously.

It's all by way of promoting the publisher's upcoming Dante's Inferno. GamePolitics readers will recall an earlier controversy around the game when EA hired fake Christian protesters to march outside the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3.

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Study: Advergames Influence Kids' Food Choices

July 21, 2009 -

Online games used by food manufacturers to promote their products can sway food choices made by children, according to a new research report.

Food Industry website Flex News takes note of a study conducted at Georgetown University which found that foods suggested by advergames were craved by kids immediately after playing. The good news is that games pushing healthy snacks had a similar impact. 

Study authors Drs. Tiffany A. Pempek and Sandra L. Calvert interpret their work in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine:

[The findings] suggest that concerns about online advergames that market unhealthy foods are justified...

[Using positive food messages with] this kind of social marketing approach could tip the scales toward the selection of higher-quality snacks, thereby helping to curb the obesity epidemic...

 

Our results suggest that not only is there a market for healthier foods and beverages, but advergames can be used to promote healthier choices and eating patterns, thereby tipping the balance toward a healthier society.

In the study, 30 low-income, African-American children between the ages of 9 and 10 played a Pac-Man-like game. In one version, junk food was gobbled up. In the other, healthy snacks were the target. The researchers found that kids who played the healthy version of the game tended to choose nutritious snacks afterward.

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Obama's Deputy CTO Makes Second Life Appearance Today

July 20, 2009 -

The Obama administration's deputy chief technology officer for open government will pay a visit to Second Life at noon Eastern time, reports New World Notes.

Beth Simone Noveck, who is known as Lawlita Fassbinder on SL, has been a member of the virtual community since 2004. Noveck will speak about her new book, Wiki Government: How Technology Can Make Government Better, Democracy Stronger, and Citizens More Powerful.

Noveck talked about her job with the New York Times last month:

If [average] people are going to be asked to spend the time on contributing, you want to use the participation they give you...

Even something like having a blog with an open discussion about policy is so revolutionary in the way government works.

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EA'S Peter Moore Challenges Obama

June 21, 2009 -

When President Obama linked video games to a sedentary lifestyle in a speech to the American Medical Association last week, Peter Moore sensed a marketing opportunity.

On Friday the EA Sports boss posted a "challenge" to Obama on his official blog. As you might guess, there's an EA product involved:

It may be time for the President and his family to put their Wii to good use and fire up the 30-Day Challenge with EA SPORTS Active.  This is a “game” even the President may not want to “step away” from...

In fact, I know [Obama is] in pretty good shape, but I guarantee the President wouldn’t look quite so smooth walking across the White House lawn to Marine One the morning after his first session with EA SPORTS Active (especially if he does those pesky lunges)! ...

Mr. President, here is my challenge to you: Try EA SPORTS Active and I guarantee you’ll need aides saying “Yes You Can!” to finish your first workout.

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A Gold Plated Wii for Queen of England

May 23, 2009 -

It's not that the Queen of England was seeking a gold-plated Wii, but THQ dropped one off anyway, reports Kotaku.

The publisher delivered the system to Buckingham Palace this week in order to promote its newly- released Wii title BIG Family Games. THQ product manager Danielle Robinson hyped commented:

BIG Family Games is the ultimate Wii game to get all family members, from grandparents to young children, playing together. The Royal Family is arguably the most important family in the country so we felt that they had to have a copy of the new game. But we thought that Her Majesty the Queen wouldn't want to play on any old console, so an extra-special gold one was commissioned. We hope that she and the rest of the Royal Family enjoy the game!

GP: Let's call this one what it is: publicity stunt.

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Watchdog Group Finds Dairy Queen Game "Egregious"

May 22, 2009 -

Stopping by your local Dairy Queen over the holiday weekend? If so, here's something to consider:

Ice cream-centric PC game DQ Tycoon has come in for some freezer burn, courtesy of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The Boston-based CCFC turned its attention to DQ Tycoon as part of its ongoing campaign to lobby Scholastic, Inc. to drop non-books items such as toys, make-up and video games from its school flyers. In a press release issued earlier this week, CCFC termed the game "egregious":

CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s June 2009 Arrow flyer.

The Orlando Sentinel's education blog picked up on the theme:

Some might suggest that  DQ Tycoon isn't in the same league with a Newbery Medal winner for children's literature, such as Joseph Krumgold's And Now Miguel, my personal favorite.  But it apparently gets equal of better billing in the book club fliers. That coming of age book about a Hispanic boy in New Mexico, which won the Newbery in 1954, has been "thinker" literature for kids for 55 years. Will DQ Tycoon meet that test??

While it's true that DQ Tycoon is probably not going to change anyone's life, GamePolitics just had to ask: What's so bad about a game based on ice cream? CCFC spokesman Josh Golin responded.

CCFC: The game is egregious because it's an ad for Dairy Queen masquerading as a video game and ads for Dairy Queen have no place in schools. It is particularly galling that Scholastic is enlisting teachers as a sales force for the game because, at a time of heightened concerns about childhood obesity, many schools are limiting the types of foods that can be sold and marketed on their premises.  I think it's safe to say that without Scholastic, DQ would be unable to promote Blizzards (as many as 1,200 calories) in elementary schools.

GP: In my experience the "tycoon" game genre generally would seem to have at least some educational value, forcing players to plan, strategize, allocate resources, etc. Not exactly Manhunt 2. I noticed that the game next to DQ Tycoon in the ad is "1701," which I've played and which also brings a lot of historical flavor as well as the previously mentioned elements to the mix.

CCFC: I don't dispute for a second that some video games can have educational value. Our concerns are a) the highly commercialized nature of so many of Scholastic's offerings  (not just the games) and b) the fact that Scholastic sells so many things that are not books in its "book clubs".

The fact of the matter is that books clearly play a special role in schools which is why Scholastic is allowed into classrooms and given the unique opportunity to sell directly to students.  Scholastic is exploiting that access by selling so many things that aren't books.  I'm sure Game Stop or Toys R' Us would love to have teachers hand out circulars for them every month.

GP: So, why does CCFC hate ice cream? Just kidding...

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Louisiana Senate to Consider Jack Thompson Video Game Bill Today

May 6, 2009 -

The Louisiana Senate will apparently discuss a Jack Thompson-authored video game bill in a hearing scheduled for later this morning.

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs has SB 152 on its agenda for today.

The measure was proposed by Sen. A.G. Crowe (R) and is similar to the Thompson bill which recently passed the Utah legislature before being vetoed by Gov. Jon Huntsman. Like the Utah bill, SB 152 would hold companies that advertise age restrictions on products guilty of a deceptive trade practice if the product is then sold to someone underage.

While video games are not specified in the measure, they were clearly Thompson's intended target in crafting the legislation.

A review of SB 152 indicates that it goes a step beyond the Utah bill by also holding retailers guilty of a deceptive trade practice for selling a product labeled with an age restriction (for instance, an M-rated game) to someone underage. This section seems to be very close to the type of content-based sales restriction which federal courts have consistently found unconstitutional.

In addition, the bill requires retailers to check the I.D. of buyers and to post signage indicating that I.D. will be checked.

GamePolitics has left messages for Sen. Crowe to inquire about the bill. So far, he has not returned our calls. We asked Thompson last night whether he would be testifying on behalf of SB 152 today. He told us it was uncertain whether the hearing would go forward today. However, we reached a staffer in Crowe's office this morning who told us the hearing would take place.

UPDATE: The committe is webcasting its hearing now. Click here for the committee list. Click on the TV icon to the right of the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs to watch the hearing. The committe is now discussing SB 29. As I write this the Thompson bill is fifth in line for consideration.

UPDATE 2: We had to wait until the very end of the committee hearing to learn that Sen. Crowe has deferred the SB 152 hearing until next week. Join us then...

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Game P.R. Event Planned for Russian Consulate in San Francisco

May 1, 2009 -

Moscow-based 1C (IL-2 Sturmovik, Theater of War) is holding a press event in San Francisco next month - at the Russian Consulate.

The news arrived this morning by way of a save-the-date e-mail. Unfortunately, I can't attend. But it would be fascinating to check the consulate out and maybe slip away from the game previews and swipe a few secrets.

The invite promises "authentic Russian cuisine and Vodka all night long." With so much vodka, how are the game journalists supposed to remember the titles they've been shown?

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Does Six Days in Fallujah Timeline Nix Claims That War Vets Brought Game Idea to Developer?

April 28, 2009 -

By now everyone knows that Konami has dropped Six Days in Fallujah like it was radioactive.

But One Last Continue has assembled a remarkable time line on the IP, indicating that the idea for the game was submitted for trademark less than four months after the battle ended. According to Austin Walker of OLC, Destineer - which later acquired Six Days developer Atomic Games - applied for the mark on February 4, 2005. There's no mention of Konami until April 5, 2009 - more than four years later - when the company was announced as the pubilsher of Six Days.

What we find fascinating about these bits of info are their contrast to claims that veterans of the battle came to Atomic, essentially demanding that they create a game based on their Fallujah experiences. Such claims were used to some extent to buttress Six Days against charges that it was insensitive to Iraq War veterans and their families. Moreover, claiming that real combatants were behind the game would surely be a marketing plus as well.

For instance, in the very first article on the game - just before the controversy exploded - the Los Angeles Times reported:

The idea for the game... came from U.S. Marines who returned from the battle with video, photos and diaries of their experiences. Instead of dialing up Steven Spielberg to make a movie version of their stories, they turned to Atomic Games, a company in Raleigh, N.C., that makes combat simulation software for the military...

Today's warriors are more likely to pick up a game controller than a paperback. "The soldiers wanted to tell their stories through a game because that's what they grew up playing," said John Choon, senior brand manager for the game at Konami Digital Entertainment in El Segundo, the publisher of Six Days in Fallujah.

But if the game was already in the planning stage shortly after the battle concluded on December 23rd, 2004 who's kidding who?

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Bringing Closure to EA's Brass Knuckles Episode

April 20, 2009 -

Recently, GamePolitics broke the news that a press kit for Electronic Arts' The Godfather II included, among other items, a set of brass knuckles.

As we pointed out, possession of brass knuckles is illegal in Pennsylvania where GP HQ is located. Kotaku subsequently noted that they are illegal in its Colorado home base, as well. As it turns out, brass knuckles are considered a prohibited weapon in a number of states.

A few days later, in a carefully-worded phone call, an EA rep advised us that the publisher would send a pre-paid shipping envelope in which we could return the brass knuckles. Not long after, a FedEx mailer arrived with an unsigned note on plain white paper:

Hello,

 

Pursuant to EA's phone call to you, please use the enclosed mailer for return of the brass curio item.

 

Thank you.

FedEx picked up the "brass curio item" from GP HQ on Friday, thus bringing to a close what has to rank as one of the biggest public relations gaffes in the history of the video game biz.

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EA Wants Its Brass Knuckles Back

April 11, 2009 -

On Tuesday GamePolitics broke the news that Electronic Arts had shipped brass knuckles to some game reviewers as part of its press kit for The Godfather II.

While the promo materials for the game were cleverly done, brass knuckles are, as we pointed out, illegal in Pennsylvania, where GP is headquartered. Merely possessing them is a first-degree misdemeanor. Apparently, that's the case in a number of other states, as well.

We asked EA for comment on Tuesday; a P.R. rep returned our call on Thursday afternoon. After delivering a brief script, the EA rep did the conversational equivalent of invoking the Fifth Amendment. Our chat went something like this:

EA: I hope you're enjoying our Godfather II press kit, including the novelty brass knuckles. To help you take proper care to dispose of the item, we're sending you a pre-paid shipping package.

 

And I can't discuss this any further.

 

GP: Are you doing this with all of the journalists who received the brass knuckles? Or just me because I wrote about them?

 

EA: I can't discuss this any further.

Despite the rep's exercising his right to remain mostly silent, it's now clear that EA has been contacting other media outlets in an effort to put the toothpaste back in the tube retrieve the brass knuckles.

Over at Joystiq, Justin McElroy writes that he's waiting for EA's return mailer to arrive. At Kotaku, Brian Crecente reports an EA phone call quite similar to mine:

The [EA] representative that contacted me said that the company wanted to make sure that the brass knuckles were "properly disposed of." He declined to comment any further... Electronic Arts did not respond to emails seeking comment about the legality of the items they shipped and whether they faced any legal actions for shipping them across state lines.

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Godfather II Swag Kit Packs Brass Knuckles

April 6, 2009 -

In advance of Electronic Art's release of The Godfather II tomorrow, a promotional package for the game arrived this afternoon. Many others in the gaming press surely received the media kit as well.

As these things go, it's very nicely done: a small wooden cigar box containing a cheap stogie, a pack of matches, a pair of dice and a length of wire (for garroting stool pigeons, no doubt). A few matches are missing from the pack, which bears the scent of burnt sulfur and has a dame's phone number scrawled on the inside cover.

There's also an authentic-looking immigration document with my actual picture attached. Three pages of folded, typewritten notes offer advice from "M. Corleone." The Godfather flavor is unmistakable.

In fact, the kit is so cleverly detailed that I almost hate to point out that one other included item - a set of brass knuckles - is illegal in Pennsylvania, where GP is based:

18 Pa.C.S. § 908: Prohibited offensive weapons

 (a) Offense defined.--A person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree if, except as authorized by law, he... possesses any offensive weapon. 

 

(c) Definitions

       "Offensive weapons." Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles... or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.

GP: The good news is that I think I'll be able to beat the rap if I can persuade the judge to consider the brass knuckles a curio, since the law does provide an out:

(b) Exceptions.--

 

      (1) It is a defense under this section for the defendant to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he possessed or dealt with the weapon solely as a curio or in a dramatic performance...

Just to be clear, promo materials like this are sent in the course of my work covering games for the Philadelphia Inquirer, not in relation to GamePolitics. EA, clearly, is hoping I will write about The Godfather II for the newspaper.

UPDATE: Stephen Totilo of MTV has also written about unexpectedly receiving the brass knuckles today.

UPDATE 2: We have requested comment from EA on the decision to include brass knuckles in the press kits for the game.

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Watchdog Dings Scholastic for Pushing Video Games, Other Items

February 10, 2009 -

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has targeted Scholastic, Inc. over the bookseller's marketing of items such as video games, jewelry kits and toys to school children.

As reported by the Associated Press, CCFC director Susan Linn was highly critical of Scholastic. The company has been welcomed into schools for decades. Said Linn:

The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege and not a right. Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with little or no educational value.

The AP details some of the bookseller's marketing practices which prompted CCFC to act:

Items pitched to elementary school students in the last 14 months include M&M’s Kart Racing Wii video game, an American Idol event planner, the SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly computer game, lip gloss rings, Nintendo’s Baby Pals video game, Hannah Montana posters and the Spy Master Voice Disguiser.

The campaign said about one-third of the items for sale in Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs were either not books or were books packaged with other items such as jewelry, toys and makeup.

However, Scholastic exec Judy Newman defended her company's offerings to the AP:

We’re losing kids’ interest (in reading). We have to keep them engaged. This (book club) model is 60 years old, and it has to stay relevant to do the work it does. To the extent we put in a few carefully selected non-book items, it’s to keep up the interest... some kids learn through video games.

 

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UK Watchdog Gives Thumbs-up to Video Game Ads

February 3, 2009 -

Britain's Advertising Standards Authority has awarded the video game industry high marks for age-appropriate advertising, according to today's Guardian newspaper.

The ASA study, an outgrowth of the 2008 Byron Review, surveyed 241 video game ads which appeared on TV, in theaters, online and on posters during April - June of last year.

From the Guardian:

The ASA said "most" of the ads, apart from radio, made a "clear reference" to the age-rating of the game...

 

"Depiction of violence was a strong theme, but it was often stylised, fantasy-like and clearly separated from reality," said the ASA...

 

"Our survey is encouraging as it suggests that video games are being advertised responsibly and in line with the [advertising] codes," said Christopher Graham, director general of the ASA.

Get the full ASA report here.

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Researcher: Brainy Nintendo DS Claims Are "Charlatanism"

January 26, 2009 -

A French researcher has discounted Nintendo's claims that playing DS titles such as Brain Age and Big Brain Academy can improve memory.

The Times Online reports comments by cognitive psychology Prof. Alain Lieury (left) of the University of Rennes:

The Nintendo DS is a technological jewel. As a game it's fine. But it is charlatanism to claim that it is a scientific test.

Lieury studied four goups of 10-year-old children as they worked on logic problems, memorization, math and interpreting symbols. Two of the groups which had completed a seven-week memory course using the DS did no better - and in some cases, worse - than those who did not use the DS.

While Ryuta Kawashima, the creator of Brain Age, claims positive effects from playing the game on Nintendo's website, Lieury dismisses Japanese neuroscientist's assertions:

There were few positive effects [shown in Lieury's research] and they were weak. Dr Kawashima is one of a long list of dream merchants.

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LEGO Batman Makes Watchdog Group's List of Terrible Toys

January 22, 2009 -

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has had little to say about video games since joining the 2007 fight against Manhunt 2.

But the Boston-based group has named a popular video game as a finalist in the voting for its first annual TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award.

So, which game has drawn CCFC's wrath? Grand Theft Auto IV? Left 4 Dead? Saints Row 2? Blitz: The League II?

Actually, none of the above. The CCFC has targeted LEGO Batman. Here's what the watchdog group says about the E10-rated game on its website:

How do you turn the ultimate creative toy into a symbol of commercialized childhood?  Begin by partnering with media companies to sell that toy in branded kits designed for recreating movies like Star Wars, rather than creative construction. 

 

Then, dispense with hands-on building altogether by turning your toy into a video game so that instead of deciding what to build next, children choose which cyber weapons to use to beat up their opponent. 

 

Finally, ignore the fact it was rated suitable for ages 10 & up and partner with McDonald’s for a Happy Meal toy giveaway to simultaneously promote the video game, junk food, and the violent Dark Knight movie series to preschoolers.

97 comments

Publisher Wants Politicians to Practice with Computer Game

January 6, 2009 -

Before taking office on January 20th, Barack Obama might want to spend some time playing Democracy 2.

At least, that's the view of Cliff Harris of UK publisher Positech Games. Harris has offered a free copy of his firm's  political sim to any politician or candidate who would like to "practice."

Are you a politician? a candidate for real political office? an MP in the UK? A Senator or member of the House of Representatives in the US? or the equivalent anywhere in the world? If so, I...a humble games programmer from the UK would like to give you a free gift. a FREE copy of Democracy 2 for you to practice with.

 

There are no strings attached whatsoever, I won't publish your name anywhere unless you say I can, I'm not getting anything out of it other than the knowledge that just *maybe* I'm helping to make our current crop of politicians more prepared for the task ahead, especially with a global recession on the horizon.

Go on, give it a try, make your policy errors in a game, rather than making them for real...

For non-politicians, Democracy 2 is US$22.95, available for PC or Mac.

Via: Water Cooler Games

14 comments

New Illinois Law Bars Alcopops From Kid-centric Games

January 3, 2009 -

In Illinois, a new law restricts certain content in video games.

However, unlike the 2005 game violence law championed by recently-indicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the video game industry is unlikely to mount a legal challenge in this case.

The new measure, aimed at keeping alcopop beverages away from would-be underage drinkers, bars their depiction in games whose audience is primarily children. Here's the language from SB2472:

No entity may advertise, promote, or market any alcopop beverages toward children. Advertise, promote, or market includes, but is not limited to the following... (4) the display of any alcopop beverage in any videogame, theater production, or other live performances where the intended audience is primarily children.

As a practical matter, the wording of the new law seems to indicate that it would only come into play with games rated T and under. Historically, we can't recall any commercially-produced games featuring alcopops.

Via: GameCulture

40 comments

EA Spanked for Misleading Wii Game Commercial

December 17, 2008 -

Electronic Arts needs to be more truthful in its advertising, according to a British goverment agency.

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, the UK's Advertising Standards Authority rapped EA's knuckles for including Xbox 360 footage in a commercial for the Wii version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09

From the gi.biz story:

The ads featured the sportsman swinging a Wii remote, but showed Xbox 360 gameplay footage at the same time, giving the wrong impression of the visual quality of the Nintendo version of the game. The publisher explained to the ASA that footage of the Wii game "would not be of broadcast quality" and had included text in the ad that the game was available on multiple formats in an effort to avoid confusion.

The ASA wasn't buying EA's explanation, however:

"Although we acknowledged that the message 'available on all formats' appeared in the final scene, we considered that viewers would infer from the ad that Tiger Woods was playing the game on a Wii console and the graphics shown behind him were representative of the actual game he was playing," said the watchdog.

 

"Because viewers would not be able to achieve the graphical quality shown in the ad on a Wii console, we concluded that the ad was misleading."

Bottom line? EA can't show the commercial for the August release again - not that they were planning to.

 

21 comments

PS3 Home Launches Tomorrow... Can it Compete with XBL?

December 10, 2008 -

Sony will launch the beta version of PlayStation Home, its long-awaited PS 3 online service, beginning tomorrow.

PS Home would appear to be Sony's long-overdue riposte to Microsoft's popular Xbox Live service, which has been building a strong user base since the days of the original Xbox. Home takes a decidely different approach to its user interface, however. The service will function as a virtual 3D world along the lines of Second Life. Users will have individual avatars as well as personal spaces called "apartments" which can be decorated.

A company press release describes Home as:

...a ground-breaking 3D social gaming community available on PS3 that allows users to interact, communicate and share gaming experiences... Within PlayStation Home, users can create and customize their own unique avatars and explore the virtual community in real time where they can communicate freely through text or voice chat.

 

PlayStation Home users will not only be able to enjoy variety of entertainment content such as mini-games, videos and special events along with their friends, but will also be able to create their own community by using the “Club2” feature to create clubs with other PlayStation Home users who share the same interests. PlayStation Home also allows groups of users to launch directly into their favourite online games together from PlayStation Home.

VentureBeat's Dean Takahashi, who participated in Home's closed beta, writes:

Home is different from Second Life and World of Warcraft. Unlike those fully-built worlds, Home isn’t really a world. It’s more like a series of virtual spaces. If you want to visit your own personal apartment, where no one can visit without your permission, then you teleport there. If you want to go to the central plaza, you teleport there. Same goes for the bowling alley or the bar from the game Uncharted. You’re free to decorate your home as you wish. If you want to listen to music, you can walk up to a jukebox...

In the movie theater, you can go into a room and see what’s playing. You can actually watch that movie with your avatar in a social setting, making comments about it that others in the theater can see. That turns movie-watching into an online social experience. There is a profanity filter, and Home will be compliant with the PS 3’s own parental controls.

GP: The Home launch is a critical step for Sony and the PS3. Let's hope that they get it right. However, as a PS3 owner who tries to stay optimistic (Sony doesn't make this easy), I am concerned about the PS Home press release (I'm looking at the SCEE version), which devotes several paragraphs to the marketing of virtual crap for avatars. For example:

Thanks to Diesel, avatars can look great from the start with Diesel offering the latest men’s and women’s designer avatar clothing, with items ranging from free of charge to €1.50...


PlayStation®Home gives everyone their own apartment to spend time in and entertain friends - who will now be able relax on exclusive Ligne Roset furniture. At the virtual store, people will be able to choose from a selection of the most popular Ligne Roset designs...

 

A selection of virtual Watchmen merchandise e.g. T-Shirts with the smiley face logo, Doomsday clocks and character statues, will also be available in the New Year...

Meh.

XBL got it right by making an easy-to-use, pleasant gaming environment. Sony really needs to focus on its core gamers with PS Home. Everything else is just a distraction.

Coldplay Video Contest Entry Touts Educational Value of Games

December 2, 2008 -

Best-selling band Coldplay has been running a contest which challenges fans to create a video accompaniment to its tune Lost.

Among those submitting entries is education software-oriented website GamingKrib.

While their contest video is essentially a commercial for their business, it also pulls in some fascinating quotes and stats regarding how young people relate to digital tech, gaming and education.

 

7 comments

 
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Matthew WilsonI meant from a organizational pov end users get it in contract, but any site that would want to use it for 2 factor would have to pay alot of money12/27/2014 - 5:35pm
IanCSMS is expensive? In what country? I get something stupid a month on my contract. I think it might even be unlimited.12/27/2014 - 5:32pm
Matthew WilsonI am still amazed that 2 factor authentication has not become the norm yet. I get sms is expensive, but Google authanacator api is free for any website to use.12/27/2014 - 5:11pm
PHX Corphttp://techcrunch.com/2014/12/27/anonymous-leaked-a-massive-list-of-passwords-and-credit-card-numbers/ Guys change your passwords: Anonymous Leaked A Massive List Of Passwords And Credit Card Numbers12/27/2014 - 3:25pm
Matthew WilsonThis is impressive video editing. basketball tricks with a basketball. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCQeFX9GSg#t=18112/27/2014 - 2:01pm
MaskedPixelanteDude was at the center of a pretty serious plagiarism scandal back in 2011, and it was widely known he ripped off other musical pieces well before that.12/27/2014 - 9:33am
Kajex@Masked Right, because his work actually composing music for several Metroid games necessitated plagiarism.12/27/2014 - 9:04am
MaskedPixelanteI can't believe Kenji Yamamoto got another job. Then again, his job on Smash was "musical arrangment", so copying other people's work is right up his alley.12/26/2014 - 9:31pm
Matthew Wilsonthe company that hosts it is a cyber security firm, and from what I understand it is the data they they see just shown publicly.12/26/2014 - 8:22pm
Wonderkarpa question about that website, Matthew...how does it know its a cyberattack or not12/26/2014 - 8:06pm
Matthew Wilsonfor those intreasted in seeing cyber attacks in real time check out this site. http://map.ipviking.com/12/26/2014 - 7:51pm
PHX Corp@MP you can add me on XBL and Nintendo Network if you want, I go under TrustyGem(Same gamertag as on Steam)12/26/2014 - 2:01pm
CMinerI blame North Korea.12/25/2014 - 11:49pm
MechaTama31For the last few weeks, the GP site fails to load about 2/3 of the times I try.12/25/2014 - 11:13pm
MaskedPixelanteOK, is GP having trouble loading for anyone but me?12/25/2014 - 9:21pm
Matthew Wilsonits a bunch of script kiddies. ddosing is one of the easiest thing to do,and most companies can not stop it sadly.12/25/2014 - 5:05pm
MaskedPixelanteI like Nintendo as much as the next person, they're pretty much the only company putting out the games I want to play, but that was pretty embarassing to have NNID go down due to overuse.12/25/2014 - 4:35pm
MaskedPixelanteSee? It's NOT a repeat of last year's fiasco.12/25/2014 - 4:22pm
PHX CorpLizard squad is responsible for The XBL/PSN shutdown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSpZvsoWvig12/25/2014 - 4:17pm
IanCOh shut up bitching about Nintendo. At least they advised people to downloading updates before the big day. Sony/MS? Not a peep.12/25/2014 - 3:50pm
 

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