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Acclaim Entertainment ‘Hall of Shame’ (Zero Punctuation)

Acclaim Entertainment ‘Hall of Shame’ (Zero Punctuation)


So far the Zero Punctuation occasional guide
to r-word moments in g-word h-word has covered publishers with bad ideas, developers with
bad hairdos, exclusivity deals, graphical quantum leaps and moral panics, but how could
I have overlooked the one aspect of the games industry that is the most prodigious seam
of r-wordation of them all: marketing. Maybe it’s because the industry is still relatively
young, but the shittiness of misguided video game marketing is a particularly rich shade
of creamy brown. Whether it be John Romero proudly informing
the magazine reading public that he was going to make them all into institutional rape victims
or Sony parading a dead goat around at the God of War 3 launch party, no really, they
did that, a misguided video game PR stunt can never just put its foot in it, it has
to put both feet in it and rub it in its eyes and call everyone else a pussy for not being
as into it. But there was one company whose feet were
rarely out of it in the last few years before their bankruptcy in the mid-2000s, and whose
story is worth preserving, partly because it’s hilarious, partly so that if any other
publishers start showing the same symptoms, we can save time and take them behind the
woodshed now. The Acclaim Game Hall Of Shame Acclaim Entertainment was founded in 1987
by some former Activision lads and deliberately chose its name to be above Activision on an
alphabetized list, which was a tactic Activision itself used when splitting from Atari. With this in mind, I checked and no, nobody
registered Aardvark Entertainment which feels like a missed opportunity. Acclaim did good work for a while, particularly
with the home console ports of Mortal Kombat and games like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, but
things started going downhill in the late 90s. Partly because a lot of their games were rushed-out
licensed garbage, partly because they were attracting lawsuits from former partners the
way Piers Morgan’s face attracts scrotums. It might be quicker to list all the entities
that weren’t suing Acclaim at one point or another, even the Olsen Twins were getting
in on some wholesome, apple-cheeked all-American kicks to the bollocks. But this is just why Acclaim went bankrupt. It doesn’t explain why, towards the end, Acclaim
was a joke in the eyes of gamers and gaming media, with a name that had become as tragically
ironic as when I in my mid-20s called myself Mr. Regular Sex because acclaim was what they
weren’t getting. See, towards the end Acclaim topped itself
again and again with mystifyingly bad ideas for PR stunts. One PR backfire is understandable, in the
heady, excitable times of a game release, but the same guys doing it over and over again
and learning fuck all takes a special kind of obliviousness. It started in 2002 when, in the runup to the
release of horror-themed action adventure Shadowman 2, Acclaim announced that they would
pay the funeral costs of anyone willing to put a Shadowman 2 advert on the headstone
of a deceased relative. Prompting public outcry and the Church of
England basically telling them to piss off. Yes! Church of “tea and crumpets with the vicar”
England. Takes a lot to upset those lads, they don’t
even hate gays that much. Now, in my research, the name “Steve Perry”
came up a lot, apparently he was the executive coming up with these ideas, but I find it
hard to believe that one person could be entirely to blame. Sure, I can see one executive descending from
a cocaine-induced trance to announce “Hey, I know what demographic we should target:
the recently bereaved!” What I have trouble picturing is the roomful
of colleagues that then replied “Yes, we agree. What a good idea, let’s action it.” Without subsequently making hasty sarcastic
eye rolls at whoever was keeping the minutes. Later the same year, Acclaim promoted the
resoundingly mediocre Turok Evolution by offering a sack of cash to anyone who was willing to
christen their newborn baby Turok, apparently shifting their demographic focus to the other
end of the scale. Now, one might reasonably say at this point,
surely it wasn’t a serious offer to let new parents cash in on their future bullying victims,
surely these were just shock tactics to grab headlines, the way a graffiti artist just
wants attention and doesn’t literally want to fuck the police, I mean, be serious, there
aren’t enough hours in the day. Well, Acclaim would always insist these were
genuine offers when pressed, and therefore they must have been, by the universal law
of no-take-backsies. But they also claimed that the baby name idea
was taken from a marketing expert named Simeon Cantrell who it turned out didn’t exist, who
wrote a book whose ISBN number in truth belonged to a book of children’s knock-knock jokes,
all of which indicates that at least one person at Acclaim was treating this as a big ironic
gag that would send them laughing all the way to the bank, but Acclaim were still losing
money so it was more like a forced chuckle all the way to the dole office. Besides, if the intent was to shock, it failed,
the tone of the media coverage was more mocking than mind-blown, and some of their other stunts,
the bus shelter advert that oozed blood, painting Virtua Tennis logos onto the wings of pigeons,
were hardly noticed. All of which is probably why Acclaim felt
the need to push their luck even further with their misguided PR stunt for Burnout 2, in
which, continuing the free cash for self-abuse pattern, they offered to pay the speeding
fines of any driver caught by cameras on the day the game came out. Yes, having targeted the newly born and the
recently dead, Acclaim were making the logical step of reaching out to the soon to be dead. Obviously this offer was pulled when it was
pointed out they were all but inciting a motorised version of The Purge. But to my mind, Acclaim’s most egregious PR
stunt was the PR stunt that was also a game, namely, BMX XXX. A roomful of executives passed round the nitrous
oxide and reached the conclusion that the next logical step for the popular Dave Mirra
Freestyle BMX series was to have a version of the game where everyone had their tits
and bums hanging out. It was a staggeringly cheap and awful concept
and upon getting wind of it, Dave Mirra paused briefly between one-handers to firmly request
that his name be taken off. Acclaim then went “Well, he said that, but
maybe if we kept him in the game anyway he’d realise that we just want to include him in
our good natured knockabout funfest and come around to our mission to delight the tit and
bum loving children of the world.” And you know what, Dave Mirra’s heart grew
three sizes that day. Nah, I’m just kidding, he sued their bollocks
off. THE LESSONS NOBODY LEARNED Acclaim’s terrible ideas collectively feel
like a test of the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. They were certainly getting the headlines
and exposure they wanted, but I think the lesson to be learned by the marketers of video
games today as they rent out entire car parks worth of space at E3 and manufacture Ghost
Recon branded contraceptives is that it only works if the product is good. Maybe a bad PR stunt could ultimately push
a good game into the exposure it deserves but Acclaim weren’t making good games. They were making rushed-out innovationless
plop, and their headline-grabbing shenanigans that would have made them seem like endearing
cheeky pranksters in the name of a quality product was simply turning a bunch of rushed-out
innovationless plop-pedlars into INSANE rushed-out innovationless plop-pedlars. You can put all the marketing in the world
behind a great big turd, but it won’t make it NOT a turd, no matter how many people you
pay to tattoo the logo just above their arseholes.

100 thoughts on “Acclaim Entertainment ‘Hall of Shame’ (Zero Punctuation)

  1. Watch this week's episode on Wolfenstein: Youngblood early at the link: https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/2019/08/07/wolfenstein-youngblood-zero-punctuation/

  2. Anyone remember how they attempted to make A mascot in the form of Vexx? Damn that game was underrated.

  3. I think Acclaim's marketing was just ahead of it's time… the explosion of social media platforms these days and the refinement of view count/like/love farming post might have pushed them in the right direction, or at least kept them on the radar. Who knows, they might have had enough steam to make a decent game… or not.

  4. I have one Acclaim game: Re-Volt. Still love it. Still occasionally play it. With mods, of course.
    But I now understand why they went belly-up, yeah.

  5. Bethesda did the "name your kid after our game character thing" and no one really cared, 'cept maybe that kid named Dovakin

  6. Talking about Acclaim, I remember the game "Machines"… I was so mind blown by that RTS/FPS mix at that time… I don't think anyone ever tried that again. Too bad. Well, tbh, I think they add that FPS gimmick to fix the horrible pathing and group moving issues XD

  7. I knew as soon as I clicked it would be another entry in "SPECIAL guide to SPECIAL moments in video game history".
    10/10 jingle.

  8. I have to be very careful when watching these videos from Yahtzee.

    One turns into two, two turns into eight, eight turns into a 17 hour binge, and before I know it; I've missed three shifts, lost my job, developed a drinking problem, and landed myself in a filthy back alley giving half-assed blowies to any bloke willing to give me some change so I can afford my next bottle of Nyquil.

    …Maybe just one more video.

  9. You know, I always wondered what happened to Acclaim . . . but never cared enough to Wiki it myself.
    Thanks Yahtz!

  10. “It only works when the product is good.”

    Then please explain why Hatred made it into your Top 5 Worst Games list a couple years back when it was very financially successful.

  11. 1:54 – DAYUM, son, talk about self-harm…
    4:53 – Ah. Just like government versus Trump with his delusional desire for a census question 😛

  12. You should have mentioned the time that Acclaim ported NBA Jam and fucked Midway over by claiming the "NBA Jam" trademark for home consoles, which led to Midway making a bunch of NBA games (Hangtime, Showtime, Hoopz) that were better than NBA Jam in every way but nobody remembers because they weren't called NBA Jam.

  13. Listening to this guy talk is so stressful. You do know you're allowed much longer videos right? Slow down!

  14. I thought you were fucking with me about the goat party. You apparently were not. How was the game able to be sold after that?

  15. I was looking through Acclaim's wikipedia page and found that they had published Scooby-Doo Mysteries, which my sister and I loved playing on the SNES. I mention this because the game's booklet (and perhaps the box, but I don't feel like looking for it right now) mentions the possibility of a villain kidnapping one of the Scooby Gang. Maybe that's the case with the Genesis version, but we never, ever saw this happen in the SNES game, and we played through the whole thing multiple times.

    I guess Acclaim had a weird PR thing going on even in the early 90s?

  16. Hey Yahtzee ! Could you do a zero punctuation for Dwarf Fortress when it reaches steam ? While not necessarily fully launched , since it will never be , it would be make for an interesting episode .

  17. There is a company in the games industry w Aardvark – an agency called Aardvark Swift that I did a couple of work experience periods with years ago.

  18. Anyone remember those parents that had a kid on 1/1/11 and named it dovakiin? I think it’s time Bethesda took a quick trip behind the barn.

  19. Ah Yahtzee, you wonder cynic, my life would incomplete without a regular laugh at the game industry that hasn’t learned anything. And yet they still continue to produce the same pile of AAA Bullsh*t at a regular interval.

  20. its been so long i forgot about this occasional poke fun at the games industry. I must confess I got wet trousers from hearing that jingle. good times. 10/10 would teeheehee at acclaim again

  21. The John Romero thing: He (according to his story and I see no reason not to believe him) had nothing to do with that poster, unless you have evidence to the contrary stop perpetuating that idea.

  22. That bmx game sounds good.
    ZP sounds like puritan.
    Want to make turd not a turd? Call it modern art you boomer.

  23. Is he going to review Streets of Rogue? I would really like to hear what Yahtzee can complain about.
    Like if you want Zero Punctuation to review Streets of Rogue.

  24. So odd how this show is actually BETTER without subtitles

    (even if it's nearly impossible to catch up to whats being said)

  25. This is the sad part about Zero Punct… Yahtzee doesn’t really swear anymore… Sure swearing is bottom level in comedy if that’s all you got, but with Yahtzee’s charisma he was one of the few people who could make swearing at video games go from ‘Hobby’ to ‘Headline’.

  26. Here's a novel idea: Take all the money you want to sink on blow and hookers for the marketing guys (actually, thinking about it again, fire those useless twats altogether, that way you free up valuable work time of those that actually work on your games because they no longer have to slap together mock-ups and teasers) and use that money to actually make a game that is more than the same game you dumped on us last year and slap a new number next to the title.

    That just MIGHT work, ya know.

  27. A-C-C-L-A-I-M?!?! THOSE ARE C'S???!?!?! I thought it was AKKLAIM for like 25 years holy crap my mind was just blown and my universe is now collapsing in on itself like a super black hole!

  28. Huh, I seem to remember them publishing an MMO in the late 2000's that was trying to do a "free to play but with a subscription as well" kinda model

    EDIT: Just looked it up, apparently somebody bought the name in 2005 and then started pumping out MMOs and making no actual money off them and then shut down in 2010

  29. 0:20 for reference, see the Zero Punctuation videos about E.T, Daikatana, Capcom 5, the 5th console generation, and the Hot Coffee scandal.

  30. Say what you will about Acclaim's absurd PR stunts: they at least made being a games journalist at the time hilarious. I can't see anyone in the press seats at E3 these days cracking jokes about Ubisoft advertising the new Sassy Creedo with tattooed eagles, or their next Tom Clancy vehicle with monogrammed bullets, or something similarly ill-advised — sure, they still do stupid marketing stunts, but they're not as funny.

  31. I've never taken this long to watch a single ZP episode. I had to pause and google all of these ridiculous things and yeah nah they were fucking true

  32. Outer Wilds was released on the Epic store earlier this year and I just discovered it. It's something special. Instead of shocking marketing, it seems to have just had… little marketing. Reward the creative game that didn't slaughter a goat to get attention and give it a review.

  33. He's actually not joking about the pigeons. Sweet Christ I didn't believe it. Bunch of loons ran that advertising department.

  34. can you please make a Retro Review on Legacy of Kain Defiance or the whole series? it's the best fkn game ever and still much playable due to its amazing dialogue and story and artstyle

  35. You gonna do Fire Emblem: Three Houses?
    Might finally explain the ancient riddle of "Who the hell is Marth" from the Super Smash Bros Review

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