'Turok' maker plays the name game

Acclaim hypes "Turok: Evolution" by offering $10,000 to parents who name their newborn after the game's hero. It's just one of many over-the-top ploys being tried by the industry.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
As the video game industry grows in size and competitiveness, publishers are resorting to increasingly wacky stunts to promote their wares.

New York publisher Acclaim Entertainment unveiled the latest marketing gimmick Tuesday, offering $10,000 to parents who name their newborn child after the dinosaur-slaying hero of the upcoming game "Turok: Evolution."

The company received thousands of responses earlier this month when it offered $766 (500 pounds) and an Xbox game console to British residents willing to legally change their name to Turok.

Acclaim also generated headlines earlier in the year when it issued an offer to buy advertising space on English tombstones to promote its horror game "ShadowMan 2." The company later said the move was nothing more than an early April Fool's joke.

Acclaim spokesman Alan Lewis said such promotions are part of what it takes to stand out in a crowded market.

"The video game industry is the fastest-growing segment of the entertainment industry," Lewis said. "We're always looking at new ways to reach an audience, and because it's for games, we can have a little fun."

Acclaim isn't the only one taking promotional campaigns into new territory. Nintendo built up enthusiasm for the release of its GameCube console last year with a contest in which fans showed their loyalty by, among other stunts, eating cat food. Nintendo marked the release of its "Mario Sunshine" game with a promotion during which fans dove into a 1.5-ton bowl of pasta to search for prizes buried at the bottom.

Microsoft earned the enmity of British television censors earlier this year with an Xbox commercial depicting a newborn child flying through a window.

Schelley Olhava, gaming industry analyst for research firm IDC, said such stunts are likely to multiply in coming months, as game makers compete for attention during the crowded holiday shopping season. But, she said, such gimmicks can do only so much.

"While such promotions can help boost a game's profile, they're not enough to sway savvy game buyers," Olhava said. "You can do all the crazy stunts you want, but if the game stinks, nobody's going to buy it."

Acclaim's U.S. promotion offers $10,000 in savings bonds for the first baby born Sept. 1 to bear the name Turok. Prospective parents must register and agree to rules posted on the contest Web site by Aug. 31.

"We're giving birth to our biggest game, so it's a natural tie-in," Lewis said, insisting that the idea wasn't that extreme. "People have been naming their kids after movie and sports celebrities for years--why not games?"