“Watch Dogs” Video Game PR Stunt Leads To Newsroom Evacuation

safe1Back in the day when I worked at places where writers were allowed to receive free promotional crap (mostly DVDs and vodka… so much bad vodka) from PR companies, I got all manner of bizarre stuff, the strangest probably being a box that allegedly contained a few of Troy Polamalu’s signature curly locks. But if I received a tiny unmarked safe with a note to “check your voicemail,” and which beeped when I tried to open it, I might have gotten freaked out enough to call the police.

And that’s exactly what happened at the offices of Australian media company ninemsn on Tuesday, when a PR stunt for new Ubisoft video game Watch Dogs went horribly awry.

A reporter at the office received the tiny black safe — the kind you’d see in a hotel room — with only the above note about checking voicemail. The reporter doesn’t actually have voicemail, but had received an odd, unexplained hang-up call the night before. Add that to the beeping noise made by the safe when ninemsn staffers tried to open it, and it quickly became bring-in-the-police time.

And so four police cars and a rescue vehicle raced to the ninemsn offices, which were evacuated while authorities pried open the safe… only to find a copy of Watch Dogs inside.

“There was a bunch of reasons this ended up looking weird,” ninemsn publisher Hal Crawford said. “The PR company no doubt got carried away with their creativity and ended up sending us something the bomb squad had to open up.”

Now, if this were some game that needed more hype, we could possibly understand going through the hassle and expense of sending out the safe, etc. But given that people have been writing about Watch Dogs for about a year, and it’s received huge amounts of coverage in the media and in advertising, there really wasn’t a need for this sort of idiocy when a simple download code wold have done… especially since ninemsn doesn’t cover video games.

[via Ars Technica]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.