Talk about a marketing event gone wrong. In the Fall of 1989, we planned to hit Germany hard for the Holidays with the release of Fistful of Hazard. The game had already debuted in the United States way back in 1987, but due to issues at Marathon, it took us more than two years to localize and ship throughout European countries.
We knew we needed something BIG to push a 2-year old game, so we worked closely with the German government to create a massive, first-of-its-kind advertising campaign.
For a sizable amount of money, we were able to secure the exclusive rights to place posters on the Berlin Wall. Yes, THE Berlin Wall.
This was a major coup for Marathon and the first commercialization of The Wall. We couldn’t have been more excited while the West German government looked to turn a profit off of what it considered a blight.
We mounted our posters in an overnight “raid” to create a “surprise” for the city. West Germans awoke early in Nov. 1989 to find Fistful posters covering The Wall. As it turns out, Berliners were disgusted that a company – and their own government — would commercialize what they called “an international symbol of repression and division.” Outraged protesters took to the streets and scaled the Berlin Wall, in a total RAGE over my ill-fated Fistful poster program.
Eventually, the protesters climbed the wall separating the countries and in their blind fury tore down not only our posters, but also The Wall itself!
In the rubble that soon lined the streets among the gleeful, dancing Germans lay BOTH the Iron Fist of global Soviet domination… as well as about $250,000 worth of Matt Hazard posters!!!
A crippling result for Marathon.
Our ad dollars were spent and there was no additional budget to recreate the posters or pay off the government. The posters suffered severe damage in the protests and were beyond salvation while Hazard’s reputation in the country went from American hero to money-hungry imperialist.
Tattered posters and smoldering paper was all that remained when the merciless sledgehammers finally fell silent. The ad campaign was a total loss, but many have told me that “the plus side” is that Germany was re-unified.
That’s great, but “unification” doesn’t finance expansion packs or sequels.
So yes, it was Fistful of Hazard’s marketing campaign that bears the responsibility for the re-unification of Germany and, I guess, the eventual end of the Cold War. But from a marketing perspective, our wasted ad dollars and lack of marketing in the territory probably contributed to the title’s poor sales there. If we could have just left those posters up for a week… just maybe…
The funny thing is — we turned down the opportunity to place posters all over the DMZ in Korea – imagine would might have happened there!
But that’s all behind us.