The director of first-person shooter game Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 has apologised for a Twitter marketing stunt that live tweeted a fake terrorist attack in Singpore on a mock news account.
Developers Activision and Treyarch have said they were "shocked" at the reaction to the stunt, and apologised to those who were offended and fooled by the fake terror alerts.
The series of tweets were posted on 29 September, by the official Call of Duty Twitter account, which had its name changed to 'Current Events Aggregate'. The account's profile picture, description and banner image were also changed to look like a genuine account belonging to a news organisation.
Then, the account then started Tweeting messages about a fake terrorist attack.
The first tweet read: "BREAKING NEWS: Unconfirmed reports are coming in of an explosion on the North bank of the Singapore Marina."
Later tweets brought more updates about the fictional story. One said: "The cause of the explosion is unknown, but large plumes of dark smoke have been seen rising from the site."
It continued: "City authorities urge the public not to panic, and not to hinder the emergency teams that are converging on the area."
The main indication that the news story was fictional was the small @CallofDuty handle next to the changed account name - but even users who were familiar with the account were confused about whether the story was real or not.
It was only when the account started tweeting that military drones had been dispatched to "shoot down civilian drones violating the no-fly order" that the narrative diverged from a plausible attack - as it turned out, the updates were glimpses into the "future fiction of Black Ops 3", as the account said in a disclaimer after the stunt finished.
However, a similar notification that the story was fake wasn't made before the series of tweets began.
Intended as a viral marketing campaign, it was greeted with criticism from many users, who branded the stunt "irresponsible," "awful" and "distateful".
Tweeting at the account, one user said: "There have been too many similar tragedies lately to joke in the way you did, without making your fiction clear."
The developers still haven't released an official statement about the stunt, but game director Jason Blundell told IGN in an interview that he was sorry for offence caused.
"It was absolutely not done for any kind of attention in any way," he said, despite the fact that the purpose of the stunt was to encourage people to buy the game.
"It was not done maliciously, or as any kind of scare tactic. I personally am very sorry for anyone who looked at it and got the wrong idea because it genuinely wasn't meant that way."
He continued: "It was done on our channel, and it was to talk about the fiction of the world. I think we were as shocked as everybody else when it started blowing up, because essentially we were teeing up ready for a story beat."
"So again, very sorry for anyone who took it thgat way. It wasn't meant that way at all - it was supposed to just be getting ready for a campaign element."
While the unusual advertising campaign didn't create any War of the Worlds-style mass panic in Singapore, the stunt has joined a long, long list of ill-advised video game marketing stunts.
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