PR firm Reverb apologizes for kitten-based guilt trip


Realistically, there’s no good reason for you to know of Reverb Communications. The company is one of many PR firms that promotes video games almost exclusively to the gaming press. You’ve likely seen the eventual results of these promotional pushes, but unless you get paid to write about pixelated characters for a living, we doubt you’d ever come in contact with Reverb in your daily life. That said, we’re about to give you a solid reason to remember the name, though we’re sure Reverb would rather you didn’t.

Yesterday morning the firm issued a press release entitled, “Vote Edge Of Space Through Greenlight And Save Some Kitties.” That seems innocuous enough as charity drives have become a rather common occurence in the gaming industry over the past few years, but on reading the contents of the release things take a decidedly morbid turn. Have a look at the second paragraph, reproduced verbatim so as not to lose any necessary context:

If Edge of Space is approved by October 15, 2012 through Greenlight, Reverb Publishing will donate $5000 to the Humane Society, which will go towards providing necessary care and safety to homeless cats. However, if the game doesn’t get approval, that money will disappear, like a puff of smoke in the uncaring wind, leaving poor kitties to survive in the harsh elements, be placed in harm’s way and possibly scheduled for euthanasia. The challenge is out there, and for a simple “yes” vote on Steam’s Greenlight consumers can actively take a role in saving the lives of kitties.  So, do your part, save some cats, and see a great space sandbox adventure get onto Steam’s platform. It’s a win-win!

While we were with the company in its efforts to promote Edge Of Space, a game currently hoping to earn enough votes on the Steam Greenlight service to actually be produced, our jaws dropped when we got to the second sentence. In only slightly vague terms, the company suggests that not voting for Edge Of Space might lead to the death of adorable animals. As an aside, this seems like a perfect time to point out that the German word “Fremdschämen” loosely translates to “embarrassment for the actions of others.”

As you might expect, the backlash to this press release was immediate. Outraged gaming journalists immediately flooded Twitter with tweets decrying the stunt as disgusting, and the company as heartless and manipulative. Gamers themselves picked up on this and contributed their own vitriol. Noticing how poorly their scheme had gone over with everyone exposed to it, Reverb immediately set about crafting an apology, and shortly thereafter the following missive was added to the Edge Of Space Greenlight page

Kitten -- small

Hey everyone! There has been a misunderstanding on the marketing side of Edge of Space. We do not support guilt voting in any way and our sincere apologies go out to anyone who felt that way. This was meant in fun, if anything, Reverb’s intent was to add a bonus; if we can make it to the top 10 by the 15th, we will help out a worthy cause. Understand that there is some dark humor in the game and they wanted to play off of that. We love CATS!!! That’s why we have them in our game to begin with! We have sugar bears too!!! So we like exotics.

That’s helpful, but Reverb apparently felt it could do a bit better in reassuring fans. Eurogamer asked Reverb about the debacle, and while describing this PR effort as “non-traditional” and saying that it “was taken the wrong way by some people,” the company also pointed out that it had planned to donate $5,000 to the Humane Society, regardless of how well Edge Of Space performs in Greenlight voting. “Even before the promotion was approved Reverb had decided to make a donation of $5,000 to the Humane Society today, this was just a fun way of drumming up some attention for the game,” the company claims. “The release was meant to grab attention and call readers to action, but we regret if we made anyone uncomfortable or angry with its content. Millions of stray cats enter shelters each year, with the yearly cost of humane shelters resting in the billions. Our wording may have been muddled, but our intentions are good.”

That comforting sentiment is somewhat in contrast to an almost combative comment left on the Edge Of Space Greenlight page by Doug Kennedy, Reverb’s vice president of business development. Again, this is verbatim:

I challenge anyone else on this board to make a donation to the Humane Society, I committed $5000, and we requested a vote of YES for the game. If anyone did their homework you would know we have made a variety of donations to animal organizations. if you don’t want to vote for the game I fully respect that, if times are tough and money us tight a “yes” vote would be greatly appreciated, provided the company continues to do well, we will continue to fund and support a number of animal organizations, either way its a win – win for the kitties. (Lastly, does anyone really think that that we were not going to make the $5000 donation, come on folks, seriously? I’ve been in the industry for 20 years, I remember when it was fun, lighten up a bit and appreciate the fact that a great organization like the Humane Society is getting a ton of attention and a nice contribution).

Having just witnessed this entire situation unfold in real-time, we’re a bit too exhausted to take sides on this issue. We invite you all to leave your opinions in the comments, while we’ll simply content ourselves with the fact that the Humane Society now has an extra $5,000 with which to feed and shelter its adorable, fuzzy charges.


Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.
Home Theater

10 apocalyptic TV shows that make the end of civilization binge-worthy

There are plenty of ways civilization can get wiped out, and it can make for some great TV. Each of these series showcases a terrifying event that changes civilization as we know it. These are the best post-apocalyptic shows on TV.
Emerging Tech

Does a steam-powered spacecraft hold the key to exploring the solar system?

A newly developed spacecraft prototype capable of using steam as a propellent may help the first miners survey potential dig sites and identify space rocks best fit for mining missions. Future versions may be fitted with sensors, allowing…

I'm canceling my backlog for Apex Legends. Be back never

Live service games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are eating up everyone's time, leaving other games out in the cold. While my backlog continues to grow, it seems the gaming industry is struggling to keep up as well.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.

Become a champion with our beginner's guide to Apex Legends

Jumping into Apex Legends for the first time? Need help becoming a champion? Our Apex Legends beginner's guide has 15 tips and tricks that will hopefully help your team make it into the champion's circle.

Thrive in the nuclear apocalypse with our Metro Exodus survival guide

Metro Exodus is a difficult shooter, especially if you're new to the series' blend of stealth, action, and scavenging. Here is what you need to know to survive the nuclear apocalypse.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.

These are the best weapons for taking down mutants and bandits in Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a very difficult game, and choosing the right weapons is key for surviving the post-apocalyptic Russia that 4A Games has created. These are the best weapons in Metro Exodus.