CAMPAIGNS: Controversy fails to dim new launch - Product Launch

’Ban this killer game,’ trumpeted the headlines when the original Carmageddon, the game where players score points for mowing down innocent pedestrians, was launched in 1997.

’Ban this killer game,’ trumpeted the headlines when the original

Carmageddon, the game where players score points for mowing down

innocent pedestrians, was launched in 1997.



The hard-hitting campaign attracted the outrage of press such as the

Daily Mail and the game received a ban from the British Board of Film

Classification (BBFC), although this was eventually overturned.



When the sequel, titled Carmageddon II: Carpocalypse Now, was released

in October 1998 its publisher, SCi, wanted to avoid the negative

headlines which had dogged the first game.



Objective



To win coverage for the new Carmageddon II computer game. To ensure that

retailers weren’t put off from stocking it because of its controversial

nature and because of furore over the first game.



Tactics



The tone of the campaign was tongue-in-cheek, using the strapline

’Anyone for a game of squash’. Retailers were made aware that the

campaign wouldn’t be along the lines of that used to publicise the first

game.



With SCi’s well known row with BBFC, censorship and the currently

confusing situation over the classification of computer games made an

ideal story to sell-in to the mainstream press.



As Carmageddon II is a similarly gory splatter-fest, it was obvious that

the BBFC would be monitoring its classification closely.



While waiting for a classification of the original Carmageddon II, a

toned-down version of the game was released, which has a 15

certificate.



However, a ’patch’ has been made available to download from the internet

which allows users to beef-up their games to the full-blooded

version.



This fact was publicised and received wide coverage in the media.



In November, SCi announced that it was taking legal action against the

BBFC because of the long delays in classifying the game. Various news

stories also surfaced that the BBFC has hired psychologists to review

the game’s potential to inspire copycat behaviour.



While the classification angle generated a lot of attention from the

media in general, the specialist computer games press featured stories

on the new game’s improved graphics and precise action.



Results



The amount of coverage generated by this campaign was phenomenal, and

ranged from the style magazine The Face to the Times, which ran a page

three news item about the publisher’s battle with the BBFC. But more

important is the nature of the coverage. Reviews of the game were

overwhelmingly positive, particularly among men’s monthly magazines,

many of which nominated it as ’Game of the Month’.



Obviously SCi’s ongoing dispute with the BBFC generated a lot of

editorial comment, much of it supportive of SCi, and focusing on the

need for a new system of classification for computer games.



The game reached number two on the computer game charts and has sold

very strongly over Christmas. Retailers’ concerns were allayed to the

extent that one retailer which had refused to stock Carmageddon at all

actually decided to stock Carmageddon II.



Verdict



This is a clever campaign, winning support for SCi and generating loads

of positive coverage for the game itself.



There was always the danger that it became another ’Shock! Horror!’

effort, but instead it has managed to generate debate and comment, and

has advanced the cause of the computer games industry in the

process.



Thus far, the voice of middle-England, the Daily Mail, which led the

outcry at the launch of the first game have abstained from comment,

sensing that there was no story for its readers.



Client: SCi

PR Team: Peter Noble PR and in-house

Campaign: Carmageddon II - Carpocalypse Now launch

Timescale: September - December 1998.

Budget: Undisclosed



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