This week at GDC, THQ decided to create a bit of hype for their upcoming action game, Homefront. The stunt was always designed to create a little controversy, but not necessarily in the way it actually did.
In case you missed the memo, Homefront is set in a near-future America, as it is invaded by the Korean People's Army. (It's written by the same guy who created Apocalypse Now (as co-writer), and the classic Red Dawn, so it has an excuse for sounding familiar.)
Anyway. In San Francisco, THQ hired a bunch of actors to pose as anti-North Korean protesters. These protesters would then march across the Golden Gate Bridge, meander through the streets of San Francisco, and finally congregate in Yerba Buena Gardens, directly across the road from the Moscone Center, which houses GDC.
The gathering in the Gardens also included global experts and musical performances, culminating in the glorious launch of 10,000 (red) balloons.
All sounds well and good, right? It's a little strange, possibly in poor taste, and not the most politically correct thing we've seen, but it's no dead pig so that's okay.
Of course, the general public were a little confused by the stunt. THQ were probably expecting some backlash about the Korean element, but I doubt they were anticipating the environmentalists to get quite so upset about the whole deal.
Their problem wasn't the protesters. It was their balloons, which drifted gently into the sky, across a few miles of space, and came gently to rest in the middle of San Francisco Bay.
Many of the balloons carried a postcard-sized flyer advertising Homefront, while the ballons themselves were printed with GameStop logos. Predictably, that's where public anger was first directed.
Oakland artist Camron Assadi wrote to GameStop with this message:
"The idiots in your marketing department released hundreds of red balloons to promote a video game at GDC. Now those balloons are trash in the Bay. What are you going to do about it? Do you have a boat out there collecting this trash?"
GameStop got a little cranky at all the negative press, and pointed the finger at THQ, explaining that the retailer had "no prior knowledge" of the event.
A statement from THQ has confirmed this, and explained the publisher's position:
"The balloons released at the Homefront rally event today were made from a 100 percent organic product and are 100 percent biodegradable. The balloons have no history of causing any environmental pollution on land or in water.
"Although we're confident that there will be no harm to the environment, we've retained a cleanup crew to remove any potential lingering debris.
"This was a THQ sponsored promotion and GameStop had no involvement, whatsoever."
Somewhat more concerning is part of the Californian Fish and Game code (5652), which explicitly prohibits littering balloons into state waters. THQ might soon find themselves with more to be afraid of than just the Koreans.
Developed for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Homefront is due for worldwide launch the week of March 15th, and in Japan on April 29th.
(Image credit: @seedlingproject)
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I like video games, fishing, Depeche Mode, long walks on the beach, writing discussion papers and cups of tea. Not necessarily in that order.
Jimmy the Geek
Jimmy the Geek