So I came across this PR stunt earlier this morning. Last week, a press release from Reverb Publishing went out saying it would donate $5000 to the Humane Society to rescue homeless kittens if Edge of Space, a game it was publishing, got approved on Steam Greenlight by 15th October.
According to the publisher, “if the game doesn’t get approval, that money will disappear, like a puff of smoke in the uncaring wind, leaving poor kitties to survive in the harsh elements, be placed in harm’s way and possibly scheduled for euthanasia. The challenge is out there, and for a simple ‘yes’ vote on Steam’s Greenlight consumers can actively take a role in saving the lives of kitties.”
As with anything on the internet, it didn’t take long for word of this to spread like wildfire and the game received a huge amount of negative comments on its Steam Greenlight page as a result.
Eurogamer got in touch with both the publisher, Reverb and the game’s developer, Handyman Studios.
Handyman’s Jake Crane issued Eurogamer with the following response:
“Hey everyone! There has been a misunderstanding on the marketing side of Edge of Space. We do not support guilt voting in any way and our sincere apologies go out to anyone who felt that way. This was meant in fun, if anything, Reverb’s intent was to add a bonus; if we can make it to the top 10 by the 15th, we will help out a worthy cause. Understand that there is some dark humour in the game and they wanted to play off of that. We love cats! That’s why we have them in our game to begin with! We have sugar bears too! So we like exotics.”
Eurogamer then caught up with Reverb… :
“Earlier today, we issued a ‘call to arms’ press release to garner support for a game that we’re publishing, Edge of Space. It’s a game that we’re really excited about and we took a non-traditional approach to garner attention for it as well as creating a chance to donate money to a good cause, but it seems as though our release was taken the wrong way by some people.Even before the promotion was approved Reverb had decided to make a donation of $5,000 to the Humane Society today, this was just a fun way of drumming up some attention for the game. The release was meant to grab attention and call readers to action, but we regret if we made anyone uncomfortable or angry with its content. Millions of stray cats enter shelters each year, with the yearly cost of humane shelters resting in the billions. Our wording may have been muddled, but our intentions are good.”
In addition, Reverb vice president of business development Doug Kennedy posted the following response on Edge of Space’s Steam Greenlight page:
“I challenge anyone else on this board to make a donation to the Humane Society, I committed $5000, and we requested a vote of YES for the game. If anyone did their homework you would know we have made a variety of donations to animal organizations. if you don’t want to vote for the game I fully respect that, if times are tough and money us tight a “yes” vote would be greatly appreciated, provided the company continues to do well, we will continue to fund and support a number of animal organizations, either way its a win – win for the kitties. (Lastly, does anyone really think that that we were not going to make the $5000 donation, come on folks, seriously? I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, I remember when it was fun, lighten up a bit and appreciate the fact that a great organization like the Humane Society is getting a ton of attention and a nice contribution).”
This is an interesting one from a PR perspective and outlines the importance of wording. I can’t say I would have ever announced a campaign like this one as the messaging of their campaign is a little off with regards to the possibility that Reverb wouldn’t donate to save the cats if they didn’t make top 10 by Oct 15th. Reverb have really left themselves wide open with their messaging on this one but it’s nothing another sizeable donation to save the kitties won’t fix.
Bad news always travels quicker than good, so it will be important that Reverb turn this one around quickly!
Love Niamh x