Video Game Publicity Stunt Goes Horribly Awry

A PR stunt gone awry had California's greenest seeing red -- literally.

To publicize its forthcoming video game Homefront, game developer THQ and popular storefront GameStop decided to release 10,000 bright red balloons with special game coupons outside a developer conference in San Francisco.

THQ didn't count on the combination of wind, rain and the heavy advertisements on the balloons carrying them straight into the delicate ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay instead of the arms of avid gamers. Environmentalists were shocked, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

"When I looked out the window and saw thousands of balloons dropping straight into the bay, I was flabbergasted," Rod Fujita, a senior oceans scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, told the paper. "I never expected to see something like this in San Francisco, where there's such concern about the bay and pollution."

The game is set in the near-future, and the United States is invaded by North Korea's nuclear-armed troops -- a premise that inspired THQ to stage a mock lunchtime rally at the Yerba Buena Gardens convention center, capped by the massive balloon launch, designed, the company said, to "simulate a method used by South Korea to send messages of hope to the North."

Pictures of the balloons bobbing on the bay quickly made their way onto social media sites like Facebook and Flickr, as angry environmentalists blasted the stunt in e-mails and on Twitter.

"Obviously, we have a problem with polluting of the bay -- and this is just polluting and littering," said Amy Ricard, a spokeswoman for the environmental group Save the Bay.

Read more about the PR stunt gone environmentally awry at the San Francisco Chronicle.