For the first phase of the game’s launch, New York agency Renegade Marketing sent troops to Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Aug. 29-31 and set up a bootcamp barbershop. The payoff for enduring a "Hell Cut," a military style buzz cut topped off with the word “Hell” spray-painted onto the back of one’s scalp? No, Ubisoft wasn’t offering to pony up college tuition, but recruits were promised free copies of the $60 game, which comes out Sept. 23. The ploy worked: 150 soldiers lined up and signed up for a cut. Another 500 opted for one of the booth’s airbrush tattoos.
“We gave people buzz cuts from Friday through Sunday night--we went non-stop and did as many as we could--sometimes the line was three hours long,” said Renegade president/CEO Drew Neisser. “We wanted to make sure everyone at that show was aware of that game.”
Judging from the prime real estate that the stunt garnered on Gamespot’s home page and blatherings at more than two dozen gamer blogs, mission accomplished.
Phase two, deployed last week, involves what Ubisoft hopes will become a viral video. An email, initially mailed to friends and bloggers, directs the recipient to the Enlist4Hell Web site, where the visitor is berated by an officer in a recruitment video. (The sender can customize with personal photos and facts so that the insults directed at the spineless little maggot are spot-on.) “Inductees” can then pre-order the game at the site, and forward customized versions to insult their friends to recruit them to join the squad.
Hell's Highway is the third entry in the Brothers in Arms shooter series developed by Gearbox Software. The World War II action video game targets grown up gamers and will be released on Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 3 platforms.