Call of Duty has stirred the controversy cauldron on more than one occasion. The most recent being the release of a new 17+ rated promotional trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, in which multiple scenes of real life footage flashes briefly in the trailers opening sequence. The live footage includes a montage of explosions, riots, destruction and even natural disasters. The latter was footage taken from the 2013 Flooding in Rhyl, Wales. Now although live footage has been used in games before the key reason as to why it’s used in this instances feels…well, wrong.
Due partly to the context the footage is used in, but, more because of the reasoning behind using the footage. The use of the live footage, which shows real life devastation that caused severe misery to a lot of people’s lives, has been critically slammed by not only the media but also a large majority of consumers. Admittedly the footage used is for a brief few seconds. However it still just seems to be in extremely poor taste with very little consideration for those affected.
This also follows the nasty PR stunt pulled by the official Call of Duty Twitter account on September 29th 2015, in which the official page proceeded to broadcast out a bomb scare. Yep, they legitimately live-twitted a series of fictitious messages claiming Singapore had been subject to a terrorist attack and the government had declared a state of emergency. Now although many people weren’t fouled by this stunt, it still caused a lot of distress and potential panic among many of the unaware, especially to those who are unfamiliar with the franchise. The tweets have since been removed.
Call of Duty seems to have had an ongoing trend of including something controversial within each game. It seems that trend has not only continued with the latest addition into the highly financially successful franchise, but has also been taken one step further by including things that are clearly only there for controversy’s sake to gain attention.
Yes, I understand that the PR stunt wasn’t the worst thing a triple A publisher has ever done ever. No, people fooled by it are not stupid in the slightest. The fact is, this kind of controversial advertisement for attention is just not on from any developer. Controversy for the sake of controversy to get your product attention is just down right gross. Hatred was condemned for its use of clearly provocative and upsetting advertisement strategies. Hatred did include upsetting themes that depicted something that was reflective of real world events.
However, Call of Duty is now doing the exact same thing but practically worse. The major issue with these kinds of PR stunts is not the content itself, but, the very use of controversial material for attention is mind-blowingly wrong. Call of Duty is a franchise far from needing more attention. Meaning it has absolutely no excuse to stooping so low just for publicity. On the flip side, if this was just a PR stunt that wasn’t thought through, then that’s extremely worrying…I mean c’mon, it was clearly done intentionally. There’s no way something like that would’ve pasted risk management. Either the stunt was astonishingly miscalculated or more disturbingly the stunt WAS in fact calculated. Also yes, I’m aware complaining about a PR move that’s intended to get people to complain about it is ironic.
Ultimately, Call of Duty as a franchise doesn’t need to do these sorts of things. When the game is released, it’ll still sell. What publishers need to realise, is that yes, this kind of controversial advertising does gain you huge publicity and attention. However, gaining attention in a negative way like a toddler having an angry paddy, especially when considering the amount of potential backlash it may have, is no way to sell your product. It’s just nasty and portrays both you and your product as desperate.