Game makers fill August news hole with silly stunts

GLEN COVE, NY and REDMOND, WA: Two video game companies have raised the bar when it comes to outlandish publicity stunts.

GLEN COVE, NY and REDMOND, WA: Two video game companies have raised the bar when it comes to outlandish publicity stunts.

Clearly taking advantage of the news hole in the notorious "silly season of August, Nintendo of America broke the world record for the largest bowl of pasta on August 22, by filling a 10-foot-diameter bowl with 1.5 tons of spaghetti, and then inviting fans to dive in. The pasta publicity stunt helped promote the release of the new game Mario Sunshine.

And last week, Acclaim Entertainment offered to pay a couple $10,000 if they name their newborn after the protagonist of the game Turok: Evolution.

"Video games are the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry, said Alan Lewis, Acclaim's PR director. "It rivals the movie industry.

And because of the number of games, we need to do something to stand out.

And we try to do that by being unconventional."

Naming a newborn Turok for a year is not unfathomable, said Lewis, especially since people name their children after movie stars, athletes, and musicians.

"We're not trying to solve world hunger, Lewis said. "We're the entertainment industry."

John Davison, editorial director for the Ziff Davis Media Game Group's video game magazines, said people should expect more of these stunts.

"Between now and the holidays, there are more than 150 games coming out just for the PlayStation, said Davidson. "Companies will try to outdo each other to stand out. It's no longer good enough to just encourage people to line up around the block for a new game."

The release of a new video game isn't news, even in the video game industry, especially with so many titles coming out. But Acclaim's promotion garnered coverage beyond the industry, including CNN, Reuters, and CNET, while Nintendo also scored stories by CNET and The Seattle Times.

"This industry lends itself to massive creativity, including its promotions, explained Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo's VP of marketing and corporate affairs.

"So I think we'll see more and more of this."

Nintendo has hosted its share of bizarre promotions. When it introduced the GameCube console last year, it held a "What would you do for a GameCube? contest. One man painted himself blue and ate bugs, like a character from the game Pikmin. A woman made a GameCube out of Spam, cat food, and chocolate, and tried - in vain - to eat the whole thing.

"It's not about doing something dangerous, said Kaplan. "It's about doing something fun and out of the ordinary."

But sometimes these stunts fail to please everyone. While American media laughed over the big pasta bowl, the Japanese media just scratched its collective head, said Kaplan.

And Davison warned that Acclaim's baby-naming offer could backfire, since the game is intended for a mature audience due to violent content.

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