Whoops! Promotional Brass Knuckles Are Bad Idea

April 16, 2009 07:20 AM
by Cara McDonough
Video game journalists became accidental criminals when they received illegal promotional items for a new video game in the mail, illustrating how marketing ideas can go very wrong.

Return the Brass Knuckles

When thinking up ways to promote “The Godfather II,” “a Grand Theft Auto-style adventure based on the famous movie,” Yahoo reports that video game publisher Electronic Arts decided to go with a fitting mafia theme.

The package they sent out to journalists included a cigar, a silk handkerchief, a book of matches and a set of brass knuckles.

But it turns out that the possession of brass knuckles in many states is illegal and comes with harsh penalties.
When blog GamePolitics wrote about the illegality of that particular gift in Pennsylvania, where the blog is based, Electronic Arts began a “flurry of hush-hush phone calls to arrange the return of the weapons,” according to Yahoo.

Brian Crecente, of gaming Web site Kotaku, said that an Electronic Arts representative who contacted him wanted to make sure that the brass knuckles were “properly disposed of,” but that he declined to comment any further.

GamePolitics said the situation was unfortunate, as the promotion was “very nicely done.” According to the blogger, “the kit is so cleverly detailed that I almost hate to point out that one other included item—a set of brass knuckles—is illegal in Pennsylvania.”

If the incident is cleared up without any arrests, Electronic Arts can probably tuck it away as something that could have been much worse.

Background: Other marketing schemes gone awry

In February 2007, another company's marketing ploy didn't fare so well. Boston officials shut down large parts of the city after a promotion for a Turner Broadcasting Cartoon Network television show were misinterpreted.

When people saw the 12-by-14-inch boxes attached to bridges and road signs—which were actually light boards set to display images of a character from Adult Swim program “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”—they assumed the worst and called the police. A bomb squad was sent in to investigate.

Boston was chided for the reaction; the boxes caused no problems in nine other cities where they were placed. But Boston isn’t the only city to react strongly to even the slightest threat of danger.

In March, London authorities blocked a section of road and forced the evacuation of a pub when water company engineers discovered a “suspicious object” beneath a fire hydrant cover. A bomb squad was called in and discovered that the object was a copy of the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch,” a fictional weapon featured in the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

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Related Topic: Violence in video games

The new “Godfather” video game has been compared to “Grand Theft Auto.” Both games feature violent scenarios, and some believe the games are inappropriate for kids.

“Chinatown Wars,” the new “Grand Theft Auto” game released in March, contains violence, profanity and frequent references to sex and drug use. The game is rated “M,” meaning it’s intended for “mature” audiences, or players age 17 and older. However, some have voiced concerns about the appearance of “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” on the Nintendo DS, a handheld console popular among the under-age-17 set.

Previous versions of the game have also raised concerns because of its violent content. Although the games are usually rated “M,” experts counter that children can often still get their hands on the game and that the game could have a negative effect on them.

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