Tainted Love: The Marketing of Duke Nukem Forever

JP Sherman

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Tainted Love: The Marketing of Duke Nukem Forever

2K and Gearbox have been selling more than just a game.

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Frybird

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I'm looking forward to 1-2 months in the future when people finally stop talking about Duke Nukem Forever.

I hate those people trying to convince themselves and others that the many faults of the game are forgivable for some reason. A bad game is a bad game, even if it is a sequel to a good game. And Games like Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 1, 1.5 & 2 and others are much better at what DNF tried.


But yeah, in terms of marketing, it's mission accomplished for Gearbox. Couldn't have been better in this situation.
 

Zhukov

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Dec 29, 2009
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Hey, I haven't seen one of these columns in ages.

That was really interesting. Especially the stuff about intentionally stirring up controversy.

Heh. I personally bought the game just to see what happens when three developers take 12 years to make a sequel to a relic. Yeah... my money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Does anyone know how the game is doing in terms of sales?
 

intheweeds

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This series is an excellent read for one who is interested in marketing in general not just games. I could easily read this once a week, although i'm sure your quite busy. I would love it if you would write more often!
 

Shamanic Rhythm

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This was a really well written, well thought out article. I particularly agreed with the analysis of the sexploitation. Too many people respond to any criticism of the game's awful attempts at crass humour with 'What did you expect from Duke, this game was always going to sexist'. I would have welcomed a sexist game with open arms if I thought the joke was ON Duke, if we were meant to laugh at his ridiculous misogyny. Instead, there wasn't really any joke. It was more a celebration of Duke as a character, as if to say 'He's survived after all this time, therefore he must have something to contribute.' That was a complete deal-breaker for me.
 

Calcium

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I was vaguely interested in the game at first, but seeing the advertisements for it changed my mind. I would feel so embaressed buying the game over a counter, but I guess that was the wedge which pushed me to the other side.

I wonder what would have happened if they had used a different tactic, trying to lure over consumers with promises of wacky out-of-the norm gameplay and quirks - some of the things like the microwave 'minigame' appeal much more than digital boobs.
 

CLEVERSLEAZOID

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Frybird said:
I'm looking forward to 1-2 months in the future when people finally stop talking about Duke Nukem Forever.

I hate those people trying to convince themselves and others that the many faults of the game are forgivable for some reason. A bad game is a bad game, even if it is a sequel to a good game. And Games like Bulletstorm, Serious Sam 1, 1.5 & 2 and others are much better at what DNF tried.


But yeah, in terms of marketing, it's mission accomplished for Gearbox. Couldn't have been better in this situation.
Firstly, love the avatar! All hail the Cap'n :D

Secondly, my, 0.02$.

I was one of those who -had- to buy this on day one. Pre-ordered the Balls of Steel edition. Yeah, as Sherman says in the article, Gearbox made a perfect ad campaign for DNF. I've been a fan of Duke since D3D back in the day, and was gonna get DNF no matter what.

When friends asked how the game was after I'd beaten it, I was honest. As a game? Yeah, its pretty bad. The graphics aren't amazing, the vehicle sections had me asking myself WTF are you doing Gearbox, the whole thing was pretty crummy. But Duke was still the same. Still had me laughing at his one liners even after hearing them more than a few times. I wasn't expecting the gameplay to be genre defining/changing, I just wanted to see Duke back in action, and it was exactly what I got.

So yeah, as a game = bad, but for a nostalgia trip, yeah its pretty good. I don't regret buying the BoS edition, as the bust I have of Duke now sitting on top of my TV is pretty awesome, and the mini playing cards go nicely with my Fallout: New Vegas playing cards x)

Anywho I diverse.

Bulletstorm was closer to what DNF was like. Although as I got nearer the end of Bulletstorm I just kinda wanted it to be over, as it was getting dull. And Serious Sam? Completely different ball game if I'm honest chap, thats more replicating DOOM/QUAKE but on a grander and more intense scale in my opinion. Hordes of monsters coming at you with stupid weapons, and a sense of humour [but different to Duke's]

Gotta say though, looking forward to Serious Sam 3 :)
 

ldwater

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Bad game was bad; I found that the game itself suffered from it trying to be modern enough and suffered from the only 2 guns thing, low ammo count & regen health. Without them I think it would have been a lot more 'old school' / doom / Duke 3D fun of shooting the crap outta stuff FPS game.

To be honest though I never thought of Duke as anything more than a joke. Hes the personification of all the 'hero' guys of the 80s & 90s - hes all the arnies & rambos mushed together to form Duke.

Hes a walking talking joke of the era that spawned him.

All this talk of him being sexist is really out of context I think; when a Duke has girls around him its assumed that hes some sort of sexual predator or some sort of woman beater but in the game hes seen as nothing more as simply 'attractive' to women!

Its pretty much the same as wrestlers in the WWF when the girls are all over them; its all a part of the show and shouldn't be seen as anything but that.

Again this is played up even more to enhance the joke as the steorotypical jock hero of the 80s & 90s always got the girl even if he looked like he'd gone a few too many rounds with the ugly stick.

His actions are never what I would consider to be abusive towards women; even the strip club level in DNF he's respectful of the women; he doesn't force himself onto them, drug them or force them into sex. If they find him attractive and want to do that stuff then he's not going to stop them and while I think the level itself is simply a piss take saying "this is what duke dreams of" its not something that I would consider to be in bad taste simply because it is a strip club.

Even when you have the women captured by the aliens the player can either ignore them or put them out of their misery. Yes its 'killing women' but in the context of youthansia he is helping them rather than leaving them to whatever hell awaits them. Ok they are topless and making generic sex noises so it seems a little out of place - but if anything you could argue that its a joke at the 'action movie' genre since all the girls have perfect bodies and a huge rack.

I am happy to admit that DNF wasn't perfect, but for that I blame the mechanics rather than its content. For me Duke has always been a joke; a guy who takes the piss out of the movies and the movie stars of action movies from my generation.

Have things move on too much and Duke missed his window? Yeah probably; is that the real issue here? Is Duke an old joke that not enough people 'get' anymore?
 

Xenominim

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I'm sure Gearbox will turn a profit out of all this seeing as they only spent enough cash to 'finish' the game and buy the rights to it, which I'm assuming they got fairly cheap seeing as the old studio went bankrupt. But I don't see them doing a direct sequel to this game after the mess it has become, I'm willing to bet the next Duke game that comes around will in fact be a reboot so they can put their own spin on the character and to address a lot of the complaints.
 

teebeeohh

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i still think that the entire point of duke nukem being released is to allow gearbox to make sequels. They can say: yes be gave you the game and were responsible for the parts you liked and all the other stuff was made before we got our hands on it. Hopefully they will be able to pump a good game or two in the next few years.
 

Siege_TF

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The twins, always with the goddamned twins. It wasn't until after I finished the game that I found out that my efforts to save the twins were vanglorious. I reasoned at the time that if I killed the queen quickly I might be able to save them from a process which was unleasant in the extreme, though not fatal, as they calimed they could exercise off the extra weight in a month (and there were no actual dead bodies to be found anywhere in the level... well, not female ones).

Because of this I can't help but to get deeply annoyed when people describe them (or the strippers in the club, or any other character) as Duke's 'willing victims'. Exactly what potential to be anything but a pair of gold diggers did they display at any point? They didn't get a whole lot of screentime, but what did they do after they finished supposedly fellating him? They weren't exactly lamenting that they had to debase themselves to finance some sort of worthy cause as you peeped on them through a vent; They went to their room and one videotaped the other masturbating.

Welcome to Duke Nukem, as it was, is, and ever will be. Everyone is as believable as in any adult cartoon; borderline retarded.
 

Phuctifyno

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ldwater said:
Is Duke an old joke that not enough people 'get' anymore?
Maybe so. Evidently, the pedantic and literal-minded have quadrupled their numbers in the past decade, thanks to Internet.


On another note, I forsee poor reviews for this game being used in the marketing for the sequel - if they can financially justify one.
 

The Hungry Samurai

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Apr 1, 2004
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I don't mind DNF being successful but I doubt they're gonna repeat that marketing magic with a DNF 2. Hopefully they're just gonna funnel all that ill gotten gain into a super awesome Borderlands sequel.
 

sunpop

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Wow haven't seen one of your articles in a while glad to see them back. It was hard not to buy this game on day 1 simply because of the nostalgia as I used to play this game while at my aunts house when I was a wee child. She hated it but my uncle loved it and I would sit there joystick(yes little one computers had joysticks back in my day) in hand for hours. I however elected not to buy it but probably will once its super cheap.

Just thinking of Duke reminds me of my now dead uncle who is the reason I'm a computer nerd today.
 

Falseprophet

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Welcome back to the Escapist! Always found your columns really insightful, and hope we get to read some more soon.
 

Gigano

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...So overall a very successful marketing campaign on the one and only parameter a marketing campaign's success is to be measured on; Its ability to sell the product, and to people coming back to it if you make a franchise of it.

So long as it is legal to do, there is little wrong in utilizing crass humour or catering to sexist wish-fulfilment. It is not the job of marketers to purify society, but simply to sell a product to its intended demographic.

There is no malice behind this, and hence it is futile for the offended to target it; it is simply a reflection on tendencies in society which are still viable enough to be able to turn a profit from. Those are what can potentially be problematic, not the commercial reaction in fictional products to them.

I have fond memories of playing Duke Nukem 3D as a kid, and am entirely unable to get offended by fictional stuff; Hence I would fall firmly into the target demographic for this game. Though personally I'll simply cut the nostalgia middle man out and get the original Duke Nukem 3D for a tenth of the price for this new subpar game.
 

TerribleAssassin

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But to be honest, like Yahtzee said, you can't live up to 12 years of development time, they marketed it well, but under the presumption that it could live up to 12 years.
 

Sovvolf

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TerribleAssassin said:
But to be honest, like Yahtzee said, you can't live up to 12 years of development time, they marketed it well, but under the presumption that it could live up to 12 years.
I honestly think it could have or at least gotten close if they'd just stripped the game back to the drawing board and maybe started again. What they did is, they released a game that as been in development hell for 12 years, just polished it up to the point that its just about playable and released it.

So as many have pointed out, it looks and feels like a dated, inconsistent mess. If taken back to the drawing board, reworked and such from the ground up... I think they could have released a very good game.

Hopefully now that this one is out the way and they still have the I.P rights, they'll release a new one from the ground up.
 

RobfromtheGulag

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I'm not sure if hurling poorly rendered pieces of feces against the wall was a good choice. Sure it got word out pretty fast, but unless I go with Yahtzee's assessment that the game is tailored for younger audiences, (concordantly younger audiences enjoy the prospect of hurling feces) that only goes along with that 'no news is bad news' theme. I'm not sure about that one either.
 

TerribleAssassin

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Sovvolf said:
TerribleAssassin said:
But to be honest, like Yahtzee said, you can't live up to 12 years of development time, they marketed it well, but under the presumption that it could live up to 12 years.
I honestly think it could have or at least gotten close if they'd just stripped the game back to the drawing board and maybe started again. What they did is, they released a game that as been in development hell for 12 years, just polished it up to the point that its just about playable and released it.

So as many have pointed out, it looks and feels like a dated, inconsistent mess. If taken back to the drawing board, reworked and such from the ground up... I think they could have released a very good game.

Hopefully now that this one is out the way and they still have the I.P rights, they'll release a new one from the ground up.
I can see what you mean, I'd like it if it was just the first part of the game's feel with the old school Duke gameplay, camp, colourful and plain fun.

Still, the humor was great, 'LET'S RUPTURE SOME SPLEENS TOGETHER!'