4. The final days of Acclaim
The last generation of videogames was not kind to Acclaim Entertainment, the company that had built its hit-or-miss reputation on games such as Turok and the home ports of Mortal Kombat. Arcade culture was dying, taking with it the arcade ports that had been Acclaim's bread and butter, and gamers were beginning to realize that Acclaim's other cash cows - mainly games based on The Simpsons and South Park - were mostly horrible.
Obviously, something drastic was needed. For whatever reason, Acclaim decided it was shock value. More specifically, they decided it was a BMX game with nudity, and Dave Mirra BMX XXX was born. The problem was that nobody checked with BMX pro Dave Mirra before attaching his name a game where topless female BMX enthusiasts helped out pimps and copulating dogs in order to unlock videos of strippers. Mirra backed off the project and subsequently sued Acclaim, and the company shortened the name to just BMX XXX.
Above: Crappy licenses, softcore-porn stunt games, clumsy publicity stunts - someone break out the popcorn, this is gonna be a debacle
When the game finally hit, it was roundly lambasted by critics for its crude anti-humor and crummy gameplay - things many players were willing to forgive in light of the nudity. Or at least they were until they saw the game in motion, at which point the horrific torsos on the topless models - which moved like nothing so much as rigid dressmaker's dummies with water-filled plastic bags stapled to the front - probably turned off at least a third of them. Maybe even half.
Whatever the case, BMX XXX wasn't enough to save Acclaim. But the company wasn't quite ready to give up on shock, either, and Acclaim is still infamous today for its tasteless UK publicity stunts. First, it offered a cash prize to anyone who would agree to have an ad for Shadow Man: 2econd Coming engraved onto their relatives' tombstones. Then, the company offered prizes to any five people willing to change their names to "Turok" for a year. Finally, another prize was offered, this time to anyone who'd have a baby on Sept. 1, 2002, and name it "Turok." And then there's the guy in the photo above, an Acclaim shill who tried to generate interest in Turok: Evolution by pretending to line up in front of a store for it prior to its release - something no unpaid person would ever do.
The unorthodox tactics got Acclaim slammed in the British press, and to nearly everyone else they came off as creepy and desperate, a sure sign that the company wasn't long for this world. And it wasn't, either; Acclaim's games were tanking, and the company was getting slammed by lawsuits from Mirra, its own shareholders and even Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, who alleged unpaid royalties from sales of their games.
By September of 2004, Acclaim was in such dire straits that it filed for bankruptcy, closed its doors and sold off its assets. It was survived only by a handful of unpublished titles (some of which found new publishers), its rich legacy of mediocrity and a vague memory in the public consciousness of one of the worst publicity campaigns ever conceived by human beings. Only time will tell if the new owner of the Acclaim name, dedicated to bringing cheap-ass Korean PC MMOs to US players, can craft a comparable carnival of bad taste.