Well it seems our readers were right. The story we carried in early March was a hoax. The Belfast Telegraph reveals that the Vacuum magazine was behind a media sting.This month’s edition on Marketing reveals all:
SELLING THE STORY
We asked investigative journalist Terry Gribbon to sell a product of his own making- Here’s what happened….
I thought I would base my investigation around a fictional product, the idea being to see how much free marketing coverage I could get in the local media. I wanted to see how much of the press release would be regurgitated in the coverage. I thought it would also interesting to see how much fact checking was done on our story. Here is the initial press release issued by my assumed identity ‘John Close’….
BELFAST FOOTBALLING LEGEND TO FEATURE IN COMPUTER GAME
Japanese Software developers Taito and Comiquat are currently in the final stages of development of a new game based on the life of Northern Irish Footballing legend George Best called Hatsubaibi Shoben. The provisional English title is Best and Yoshi vs. the Bobbe Monster. A launch in Northern Ireland is planned for 2007 to bring the game home. The game will initially be released in Japan on the 31st September 2006 for the Play Station 2. The European launch will take place at Blitzfair games festival in London this Autumn. Taito and Comiquat see the universal appeal of George Best as an opportunity for an exciting crossover between the Asian and European markets.
Taito’s spokesman Taku Sugimoto outlined the international importance of the game. ‘Japanese games are quite abstract and experimental and do not involve driving or shooting like games in the European market. These types of games do not translate well to different markets. By using the icon of George Best we can market our ideas more successfully. George Best is an icon of world football, he is very special and makes an exciting character’.
A NEW TYPE OF GAME
‘Hatsubaibi shoben’ is set in a technicolour fantasy land where players, assuming the earthly form of George Best must return the Golden ball to the Land of Om by defeating the monsters of evil mastermind Amaterasu of Bobbe. Amaterasu of Bobbe is a deity, his dark power is derived from gullible humans who believe in him. Amaterasu of Bobbe has brainwashed his followers ‘the tanbou’ into believing in ‘Maketingu Shasetsu’.
With his magic ball ‘Yoshi’ the game character George Best must collect and lead the 108 Stars of Destiny and form the upstart Liberation Army. Can you dismantle the Empire of Amaterasu piece by piece?
In the game George travels through 12 levels beginning with the landscape of his hometown in Belfast, Northern Ireland. As the game progresses the landscapes become more abstract. The game’s amazing Japanese art style helps set the pace of the game and encourages players to relax to enjoy the beautiful scenery rather than just rushing through the game’s missions.
More press info is available through European Press office: firstname.lastname@example.org
This press release was emailed to a number of local newspapers and websites along with a mock-up screenshot of the game from our cartoonist.
The first coverage came from www.sluggerotoole.com. In their feature a large part of the press release was reproduced. However contributors to the web forum were a little sceptical and asked whether it was April Fools joke. One contributor noted that the name ‘Yoshi’ was associated with the game developer Nintendo and that copyright issues would arise with the use of the name by another computer company. No such queries where made by local press and radio however who were happy to reprint large sections of our press statement.
The story was carried in the Belfast Newsletter and other coverage quickly followed. The Talkback programme on Radio Ulster contacted the John Close psuedonym via email. This presented us with a problem… Close was meant to be based in Austria, we would have to get someone to conduct the interview. Luckily a willing volunteer came forward and conducted the interview (reprinted opposite). With our encouragement our Volunteer garnished the orginal story with some more outlandish details as they occured to him. Sunday Life also wanted to speak to our representative and published his further embellishments.
So now that the game has been successfully marketed stage two of the mission will commence: The development of the product.
‘Best and Yoshi’ coming to a store near you.
BBC Northern Ireland
Talkback 15th March
David Dunseith: Now here’s John Close the European Manager of Taito Comiquat – I hope I’ve got that right – they’ve developed the game. OK, go ahead, tell me all about the game.
John Close: hello David, thank you for having me on the show today. Well I’d just like to introduce it, it’s a wonderful game. The name of the game is Best and Yoshi versus the Bobbe Monster and it’s really a kind of combination, an East meets West game, combining the magic of the beautiful game with the dynamism of Japanese graphics and anime and the warmth of Pokemon. In the game Best must return the Golden Ball to the land of Om by defeating the evil mastermind Amaterasu of Bobbe. It’s a kind of Forces of Light versus the Forces of Darkness game.
David Dunseith: well, But does he actually play football, does he dribble with the ball?
John Close: yes he does dribble with the ball, and this requires great skill on the part of the game player although I must say it’s not a football game, it doesn’t fit into the generic Premiership football type console game. This is very much in the Japanese tradition of games which is much more abstract and involves conceptual ideas of light and dark and good and evil.
David Dunseith: and will people in this city recognise the backdrops?
John Close: they will at the beginning and at the end. In the beginning Best emerges out of a very recognisable Northern Ireland backdrop. I don’t know if any of your listeners have seen any of the artwork that was published in the Newsletter which ran a little feature on the game recently, but it is a very striking recognisable image of Northern Ireland that features on the first level of twelve that Best and Yoshi have to fight their way through.
David Dunseith: Is Best the only football celebrity in this?
John Close: Well I’d like to divulge a little of the game to you listeners. There are a few recognisable figures in this game, I don’t want to reveal too much because we like to keep our cards close to our chest, as the game becomes more publicised it will become more recognisable, but on the eleventh level there is a return to Northern Ireland which I think your listeners will be very interested in. It’s called the Nirvana level and in that level Best and Yoshi team up with Kurt Cobain and Shogun Kobuki. They have to light up the six pillars of Stormont with golden chimes. At the sixth chime a thousand butterflies of peace and reconciliation cascade over the screen…
David Dunseith: …Ahhhh…
John Close: … delivering messages of peace…
David Dunseith: … sounds wonderful…
John Close:…it is wonderful. And I was wondering, if your listeners are interested what we were hoping was that there might be some contribution by people of Northern Ireland. They could send me messages that would then be part of the game. If they would send them to my email address email@example.com,
David Dunseith: …right…
John Close: any messages that they would have for Best and Yoshi as they get into the twelfth level, which is the land of Om.
David Dunseith: Ok, we’ve got you email firstname.lastname@example.org thanks for that, let’s take another call on planning now…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty