Ubisoft’s recent triple A release, Watch_Dogs, has proven to be a major success, having already been the most preordered next-gen game while accumulating positive reviews on launch day. Of course, the road to gaming greatness is fraught with bumps and holes, and Ubisoft hit a big one recently when their Australian branch engaged in a creative but misguided PR stunt that resulted in a building being evacuated and the bomb squad being called in.
As documented by Australian media site Mumbrella, it all began when a reporter working at Ninemsn, an internet joint venture between Microsoft and Nine Entertainment and the default homepage for Internet Explorer users in Australia, received a black safe and an ominous note saying “check your voicemail.” Although we now know the safe and note came from Ubisoft Australia’s PR team, they were dropped off by a courier and not signed for.
The reporter did not have a voicemail set up, and instead tried to open the safe by entering a pin that was taped onto it. Instead of opening, the safe began to beep. Thinking it was a PR stunt, Ninemsn employees called up fellow news publications to see if they had gotten a safe too. Upon learning that they had not, the entire floor was evacuated and a police bomb squad was called in.
The safe was subsequently forced open, and within it lay a copy of Watch_Dogs, a baseball cap and beanie, and a note stating that reviews for the game would be embargoed until 5pm.
In a statement to Polygon, Ubisoft said:
Our team in Australia sent voicemail messages to some local media alerting them that they’d receive a special package related to the game. Unfortunately, the delivery to Ninemsn didn’t go as planned, and we unreservedly apologise to Ninemsn’s staff for the mistake and for any problems caused as a result. We will take additional precautions in the future to ensure this kind of situation doesn’t happen again.
“This is definitely the other side of the line in terms of what it’s safe for a PR company to send anonymously to a newsroom. The thing was black, heavy and slightly creepy,” said Ninemsn’s editor Hal Crawford to Mumbrella.
As it turns out, Ninemsn does not even cover videogames.