Grand Theft Auto is considered one of the video game industry’s most infamous game series, being adored and hated for its gratuitous violence and adult themes. But according to the creators, the entire controversy was purposefully orchestrated by an individual who was specially hired to “cause”. But is the controversy so impactful when measuring the financial success of the games? Check out below for an analysis of how marketing and famous controversy are used for games to increase their fame.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the creators of the first games in the series GTA, Dave Jones and Mike Dailly, revealed how the entire discussion formed about violence over the game was created by a man what planned everything from the beginning.
Max Clifford was hired by the creators of GTA for him to manipulate the media and create enough controversy for the game to be sold for these reasons. Clifford showed who would play, who he would manipulate and exactly what each person would say once the game was released.
All these statements proved to be correct and GTA was a success mainly for its “bad” reputation of being a violent game, in which the protagonist could run over people and be a criminal to gain as many points as possible.
Nowadays the series Grand Theft Auto it is still famous for its boldness and continues to be the target of criticism and accusations from politicians around the world: all thanks to the creators of the series and Max Clifford. This shows how easily the media can be manipulated by the right people, and we, the consumers, even more so.
If someone says that game is controversial, parents will most of the time deprive the child of playing, making her desire to increase even more after all “the forbidden fruit is much tastier”. The series GTA it’s just one example of marketing that worked. We have several games that follow the same tactic, since Carmageddon and Duke Nukem until postcard 2.
Games this way work primarily to impress and shock the unsuspecting. The shock of knowing that a game allows the player to use a car to run over people and earn more points, tip strippers or even reach the absurdity of allowing the protagonist urinates on other people creates different responses in the public, but always gains visibility.
These marketing moves aim to create controversy, generate discussion, arouse the interest not only of the media, but also of people. With that, you win in spontaneous marketing, because everyone will be talking about “that game where you can run over helpless old ladies”.
Of course, we can’t take credit for these games: Carmageddon is an extremely fun game with racing gameplay very well done for the time. Already Duke Nukem can be considered one of the first strong personality protagonists in the gaming world (not being just a pair of arms wielding a gun), while postcard 2 gives us moments of morbid pleasure all the insanities it offers. If this were a lie we wouldn’t see it being accepted so quickly by the steam greenlight.
Like movies, video games need different strategies to increase their recognition, whether using originality, pure fun, telling an engaging story or simply using their controversial side to be able to surprise.
the recent Saint’s Row: The Third used a similar tactic by adopting a sour tone of humor in game situations competing in the same space as them. While GTA IV brought a serious and dramatic story to Niko Bellic, in Saint’s Row: The Third we have missions like jumping out of a plane, skydiving and then finding the same plane to kill the enemies inside and grab a parachute, or just hit people with your highly suggestive baseball bat.
The best part is that all this brought fame to Saint’s Row: The Third, allowing him to finally lose the stigma of trying to be a GTA. This shows how the absurd and controversial can be of great help to a series that needed innovation and identity.
Of course, this doesn’t always work: some games try polemic even too much and end up losing their place in the industry, being seen as an object of bad taste.
the japanese game rapelay received so many discussions for dealing with rape, abortion and even pedophilia that it had its distribution entirely canceled, even though it became the best-selling game (only in Japan, in places where it was allowed for some time).
We also have the famous “secret” modification of GTA San Andreas, a Hot Coffee, which pushed the limits of common sense by adding explicit *** scenes, which led to the game receiving threats to be taken off the shelves. There are several other examples of games that try to be “too rebellious” and end up burning their movie with the media and the public.
These days, some companies try to keep their game as far away as possible from controversies that they know won’t help their product sales. A few years ago, the modern reboot of Medal of Honor got into an accidental controversy by naming the terrorists in the multiplayer portion as the group al Qaeda, being a very sensitive topic for the American public so close to the real war going on. The enemies were eventually renamed, the dust settled, and the AND THE avoided a lot of headaches.
Similar situation happened with Six Days of Fallujah, a game that never managed to reach the light of day because it wanted to show the 2004 battle in Fallujah. Its (almost) distributor, the Konami, decided to cancel the game before it received any kind of repudiation or controversy, for ” tackling such a recent and impacting topic for public opinion.
The most recent example was Assassin’s Creed III and the way that the Ubisoft handled the game’s marketing until its release: the producer took certain sides in hopes of keeping both sides (English and American) happy.
Assassin’s Creed III, as everyone knows, points to a delicate issue of american revolution of the eighteenth century: the liberation of the Americans against the British, leaving our protagonist right in the middle of this conflict.
THE Ubisoft showed how the protagonist would not only stay on one side and he would take part in his own group – the Assassins – and in order not to foment fights, similar trailers, but with meticulous alterations were released for the two countries.
In practice, Connor ends up killing both American and British soldiers, but the trailers located showed him keeping British in the US and Americans in England. of course the Ubisoft took the path of stones: in the first video, she didn’t even show a picture of Connor killing an American soldier, which made many people assume she would be 100% on the American side. From there, the company directed its marketing to avoid further confusion.
So the Ubisoft he reaffirmed that his game dealt with a separate theme: the story of Murderers vs. Templars that goes back to ancient times but this time it would have the american revolution as a background. Considering that she is a French company, possibly she had none in this “war”, but wisely chose to stay “on the fence” to avoid unnecessary stress.
After so many different actions taken by video game companies, we see how controversy is an extremely powerful marketing tool even today, both for the industry and for the media and finally for us, the consumers. Whether hiding or intensifying certain aspects of a game, infamy, “word of mouth” and public opinion still have a lot of force when it comes to acclaiming or taking down a franchise.
And you, what do you think? Would you buy a game because it is controversial, or would you rather not let yourself be taken in by the media (and controversies) and simply play, seeking to form your own opinion? Leave your opinion in the comments!