Ever since Watch Dogs was first announced by Ubisoft at E3 2012, the sense of excitement surrounding the game has been growing. After it missed its originally planned launch date in November, it finally launched this week to widespread acclaim, with overwhelmingly positive reviews.
Even so, Ubisoft, the studio that developed and published the game, was keen to generate a bit of extra publicity for it. Unfortunately, one of its PR stunts went slightly wrong, leading to a bomb scare at an Australian newsroom.
Ubisoft sent a copy of the game to ninemsn – a joint venture operation equally owned by Microsoft and Australia’s Nine Entertainment Company – which it enclosed in a safe that beeped when staff at the website’s office attempted to access it.
Understandably troubled by this, they checked to see if similar packages had been delivered to other newsrooms, but found that none had. Adding to their concern, one of the site’s reporters was said to have “received a hang-up message from an unfamiliar number the night before”, according to ninemsn’s own report on the incident.
The police were then called in, dispatching a rescue unit truck and numerous other vehicles, along with a bomb disposal squad to the office. The newsroom’s staff were sent home while police examined the safe and eventually managed to open it, only to find a copy of the game inside. Their news teams were likely even more confused by this, since the site does not cover gaming content.
ninemsn called the publicity stunt “ill-conceived”, and the company’s Hal Crawford added: “There was a bunch of reasons this ended up looking weird. The PR company no doubt got carried away with their creativity and ended up sending us something the bomb squad had to open up.”
BBC News reports that Ubisoft has since issued a statement expressing its regret for the incident - although the company stopped short of explaining why it sent the game to a news outlet that doesn't actually cover gaming anyway.
Ubisoft said: "As part of a themed promotion for Watch Dogs, 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 statement added, "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."