PSP hype site draws backlash

Surreptitious marketing campaign draws ire of gaming community, site updates with admission of shenanigans.

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Ummm...actually it is.
Ummm...actually it is.

Last month, a Web site debuted called All I Want for Xmas is a PSP, supposedly established as an effort by two friends--Charlie and Jeremy--to get Jeremy's parents to buy him a PlayStation Portable for Christmas. The site included PSP-centric greeting cards, T-shirt iron-on patterns to print out, YouTube videos featuring songs about the system, and an abundance of Internet and street slang, some of it improperly used.

The site went largely unnoticed until this week, when someone on the Something Awful forums (warning: foul language) started a thread about it, pointing out the quality of graphic design on some of the site's offerings, attractive T-shirt models, and use of Sony terminology like "PSP Entertainment Pack" to describe the system.

Within minutes, it was determined that the site had been registered by Zipatoni, a marketing firm that touts "interruptive buzz marketing" among its specialties, and counts Sony among its clients. Word of the campaign quickly spread and the site's comments sections were bombarded with words from angry visitors.

Today the site's owners pulled the YouTube videos and a posting with a $249 bill printout (just the right amount to buy a PSP Entertainment Pack), killed the comments sections and admitted the site had been a sham.

In an update attributed to Sony Computer Entertainment America, the following message was posted:

"Busted. Nailed. Snagged. As many of you have figured out (maybe our speech was a little too funky fresh???), Peter isn't a real hip-hop maven and this site was actually developed by Sony. Guess we were trying to be just a little too clever. From this point forward, we will just stick to making cool products, and use this site to give you nothing but the facts on the PSP."

This is not the first time Sony's PSP advertising has ruffled feathers. Last year a graffiti campaign that saw sidewalks and buildings decorated with addle-eyed children playing the PSP began appearing in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago. Earlier this year, one New York City politician called for Sony to pull the ads and pay $20,000 to the city's antigraffiti program.

In June, a series of PSP ads in the UK drew criticism for their slogans, which included "Strong language and scenes of a sexual nature here," "Your girlfriend's white bits here," and "Saucy emails won't get you fired here." The next month, an ad campaign promoting the debut of a white model of the PSP in Europe led to accusations of racism. It depicted a white woman wearing a scowl on her face and holding a black woman by the jaw threateningly, along with the tagline, "PlayStation Portable White is coming." It was eventually pulled.

A Sony representative told GameSpot the company created the site "as a humorous site targeting those interested in getting a PSP system this holiday season," and that it would continue to update the site in the future.

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