Balloon stunt blows up in game developer’s face

A PR stunt went badly wrong for games developer THQ this week when a mass balloon release caused outrage amongst environmentalists.

The company released 10,000 red balloons as part of a ‘mock rally’ at the Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. It was promoting the launch of Homefront, set in the near future in a world in which the US has been invaded by North Korea.

The balloons were meant to simulate a method used by South Korea to send messages of hope to the North – although they carried nothing more edifying than an advertisement and special offer from the

GameStop video game store. But instead of floating towards an oppressed population, they drifted out to sea en masse.

Local environmental groups criticized the stunt, saying it represented a threat to local wildlife. Rod Fujita, a senior oceans scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the San Francisco Chronicle he was ‘flabbergasted’.

“I never expected to see something like this in San Francisco, where there’s such concern about the bay and pollution,” he said. And Amy Ricard from Save the Bay described it as ‘polluting and littering’.

While THQ says the balloons were biodegradeable, Fujita points out that they can still cause a lot of damage to wildlife during the time it takes them to disappear. THQ says it also plans to dispatch a bunch of people to clear up any balloons they can find.

GameStop’s issued a press release distancing itself from the stunt.