When Microsoft first demonstrated Project Natal (now known as Kinect) at E3 back in 2009 their most inspirational demo by far was Milo, an artificially intelligent boy who was able to interact with humans using a digital camera hooked up to an Xbox 360. It didn't take long for the gaming press to think Milo was a little bit too good to be true and the first rumors about the demo being fake popped up shortly after the expo.
While none of these rumors were backed up by enough substantial facts, it was to prove to only be the first of many PR problems that Milo would have to endure. Since its first showing, Milo has been called "Peter Molyneux's greatest achievement ever", declared dead, dug up again, and then finally denied as an actual product altogether.
We worship Peter Molyneux as one of the greatest game designers ever, but seeing his reputation for being a blabbermouth, Microsoft must have known he was a publicity problem waiting to happen.
4. Sony | Killzone 2's first showing at E3 2005
That the gaming press were skeptical about Milo's E3 showing may have had something to do with the fact that they had been fooled before. Four years earlier, Sony had shown them a jaw-dropping demo of Killzone 2 on the Playstation 3. The press posted one jubilant post after another about how fantastic Killzone 2 looked and when the trailer was released on the Internet, droves of Playstation fans were salivating over graphics that no one had ever seen in a game before.
But you can only fool some of the people some of the time...
When an inquisitive member of the gaming press contacted developer Guerilla about the demo, they admitted that the whole thing was a setup and that the demo did not contain any real-time gameplay at all, but merely pre-rendered graphics. By then, however, expectations had run sky high for the actual game, which we're sure contributed to the long development time of the game. Sony could not risk an even bigger scandal by having the actual game's graphics be anything less than superb.
3. Activision | Bobby Kotick getting greedy
When you are the top dog of game publishing you can afford to be a thoughtless, money hungry brute. But seriously, we don't know any gaming 'celeb' as damaging to the reputation of his company as Bobby Kotick is bent on being every day of his life at Activision. When game industry analyst Tony Gikas asked him about Activision's comfort level when it came to prices for games, and in particular that of special editions and games shipping with peripherals, Bobby said that if it were up to him, he'd raise prices on games even further.
A thunderous anger felt for weeks rumbled through the gaming community as a result. "Activision?" gamers said "they're just money grabbing arseholes". And who would blame them for saying that? There was one small comfort in all this for Activision however: their reputation wasn't much to begin with.
2. Ubisoft | Assassins Creed II DRM
Ubisoft has a name for creating fun and innovative games but has a somewhat checkered history when it comes to DRM. While the copy protection schemes on their games have been among the most hated in the industry, nothing had prepared gamers for the arrival of their Online Services Platform. This required gamers to not only authenticate their game over the Internet, but to remain online while playing as well.
The system turned out to be a real pain in the ass when the first game to use it – Assassins Creed II - proved impossible to play. For weeks the platform's servers were so unreliable that people were unable to log in and play, or randomly lost their connection and subsequently their progress in the game. While we fully endorse a publisher's right to combat piracy, one has to wonder if the reputation damage caused by this particular DRM scheme was worth it.
1. Eidos | Gerstmann Gate
Picture this: You are a game publisher and you have just launched an expensive advertising campaign for your latest game on the world's largest gaming publication, plastering its pages left, right and center. All proud, you hop onto the site and locate the review of the game only to find that the reviewer gave it a lowly score of 6.0 out of 10. Boy, are you angry now! We can certainly understand that anger. What we don't understand is that you would pick up the phone, dial GameSpot's number (the gaming publication in question), and tell them to remove the review of Kane and Lynch: Dead Men.
What were you thinking Eidos?! It was never disclosed exactly what happened next, but the phone call ultimately led to the removal of the article (seriously bad move, GameSpot) and the dismissal of its author, Jeff Gerstmann. The stink that this created lead to a large portion of the GameSpot crew leaving the company and the game to be universally 'barfed up' by the gaming public.
In this instance, not one, but two companies made themselves look ridiculous and it baffles us still that Eidos tried to develop a sequel. Kane & Lynch really are dead men, and it's a shame that their creators failed to see this.