Some of the Weirdest Video Game Conspiracy Theories

Sadly, conspiracy theories are everywhere in our modern time. Entire political careers have developed by pushing crazy nonsense, and tons of money can be made from it. Whether it be 9-11 truthers, Q Anon adherents, JFK assassination theorists, or even food industry deniers crackpots, this stuff is digging its claws into everything. Videogames are no exception, so I’ve rounded up some of the zaniest, goofiest, and possibly weirdest conspiracy theories out there in no particular order. Maybe we can see a shred of truth in them? I doubt it though!

Sony could control all PS3s remotely

Remember back in March 2010 when nobody could access their PSN-Based PS3 games for a few weeks due to date issues within PSN? All it took was one angry fan trying to figure out what was going on to create a conspiracy theory. What it boiled down to was since all the PS3s in the world supposedly stopped working at the same time, then mysteriously started up again at roughly the same time, Sony must have a “Big Brother” switch wired in to monitor what we do on our PS3s. The real reason for this bug was revealed to be a hardware internal clock, which thought it was a leap year, but that doesn’t stop folks from assuming the worst.

No PS2s at Christmas due to Iraqi mass purchase

Hot on the heels of the wild story involving Saddam Hussein planning to buy up PS2’s to launch nuclear missiles; word began to spread of another Iraqi plot on our livelihoods that seemed to confirm this rumor. Suddenly headlines began to spring up reporting that a secret Defense Intelligence Agency report stated that as many as 4,000 PS2s had been purchased in the United States and shipped to Iraq in the last two to three months of 2000. Not only did this cause the shortage of PS2s over that particular holiday season, but with the right know-how Saddam Hussein could build a crazy super-computer for his nukes. By buying Playstation 2’s rather than PCs Saddam could pass through UN sanctions as the PS2 was seen as a gaming machine rather than a computer. Sadly years of watching the movie Wargames were put to bed when reality set in. Not only would someone have had to create some unique software to run the PS2 processors, but developing such a program would have taken at least a few years.

Wii naming was a publicity stunt

Not everyone was thrilled when Nintendo unveiled the now mega-hit Nintendo Wii and its branding. Once called the “Revolution” the system was seen as a war cry to the other systems, a system that would change the way we play games. The name it was eventually given – “Wii” – was immediately likened to what one would call a flaccid penis rather than a game system. Up until right before launch, there were many folks out there dying of disbelief. These folks believed that the whole “Wii” name was a huge publicity stunt and the system would return to the more fanboy-friendly “Revolution” just in time. This is the age of viral marketing after all, and what better way to gain publicity with a silly fake name? Many years later and my system is still called the Nintendo Wii, sorry tin foil hat brigade.

Game systems purposely holding back production to make demand larger

This one is an “oldie”, but a “goodie”, and it involves pretty much any gaming system that becomes so popular that it sells out at some point. This is especially HUGE right now with the insane scarcity of the new Sony PS5 and X-Box Series X consoles, as some ignore the chip shortages and Covid 19 in favor of more interesting theories.

Without understanding how production contracts work, many jump to the wild conclusion that “Company X is purposely holding back production to make demand larger, that way it can keep in the news” or “If demand is high, they will never lower prices”. While many game companies may like the added attention that the media gives with a shortage, let’s be realists here. Game companies want to make money. Rather than have a billion unwanted systems sitting on a shelf, many companies make contracts, forecasts, and plans to accommodate a certain projected sales. If the system does better, they can’t really go out and make the factories work better, or divert money to speed it up. So while it may suck trying to find a “sold-out” game system, common sense will tell you that a conspiracy is off the cards.

Microsoft is trying to sabotage new formats in favor of digital downloads

This conspiracy comes all the way from the mouth of Michael Bay, film director behind films like the Island, Pearl Harbor, and the Transformers films. Michael bay was all on board for the HD-DVD format in its battle with Sony’s Blu-Ray technology. Do you all remember that? Like fifteen years ago there were two competing HD home media formats, and Sony’s Blu-Ray ultimitely won out. Confused by the apparent failings of HD-DVD Bay began to spout off a few classics such as these two that were posted in the New York Times:

“What you don’t understand is corporate politics. Microsoft wants both formats to fail so they can be heroes and make the world move to digital downloads. That is the dirty secret no one is talking about”.

And…

“That is why Microsoft is handing out $100m checks to studios just embrace the HD DVD and not the leading, and superior Blu-ray. They want confusion in the market until they perfect the digital downloads. Time will tell and you will see the truth.”

Time has told, and it seems that Blu-Ray has beaten this conspiracy. Then again, digital has made some progress in the last 15 years – perhaps they were playing the long game?

Microsoft delays on PC in order to support consoles

PC gamers are not left out in the zany conspiracy forum, many citing the rise of the console as proof that the conspiracy exists. At a Game Developers Conference about ten years ago Randy Stude, the president of the PC Gaming Alliance gave the following interview with VideoGamer.com criticizing the lack of support from Lucas arts with the PC version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed:

“In the last several years there have been at least 100 million PCs sold that have the capabilities or better of an Xbox 360. It’s ridiculous to say that there’s not enough audience for that game potentially and that it falls into this enthusiast extreme category when ported over to the PC. That’s an uneducated response. LucasArts hasn’t made a good PC game in a long time. That’s my opinion. They make some pretty good games for the Wii, you know those little sticks you wave in the air, that seems like a natural fit for a lightsaber game, sure. But I think the last good PC game they made was probably Jedi Knight 2, and even their strategy games weren’t that great. So I can understand why they would make that call.”

This mentality of being under-siege by consoles has lead Stude and the other members of the PC Gaming Alliance to propose that gaming delays on the PC are there for the sole purpose of killing PC sales in favor of console sales for the X-Box. Some have theorized huge money transfers, and other shenanigans to keep PC gamers in the dark. Of all the conspiracies on the list, this seems the most plausible despite the evangelistic method its proponents are spreading it.

Game companies using DRM to push for consoles

Much like the above conspiracy, many have the feeling that game companies are willingly frustrating PC gamers with intrusive Digital Rights Management programs to make them burn out and switch to console games. Many simply feel these companies that make bad DRM schemes must be doing it on purpose because nobody would willingly screw a game up like some games have been with DRM. This rumor began to spiral out of control when Ubisoft’s DRM verification server went south leaving many folks with legitimate games in the cold, while pirates gloated about their lack of issue. As with above, I feel that there is a small sense of PC elitism fueling the claims

Game companies killing systems on purpose with updates

This is a no-brainer to a degree considering both Apple and Samsung had to settle HUGE lawsuits for effectively ruining people’s cellphones to push new hardware adoption, one can assume game company are largely doing the same thing. This theory sprang up back when Sony infamously sent out a bad patch that effectively “bricked” any PSP system that it was added to. The very vocal crowd that got slammed insisted that it was a punishment for homebrew activity on the system, and they were getting their rights to use their systems as they pleased crushed. The same thing happened at one point with the Nintendo Wii with a firmware patch that removed Homebrew programs and locked up many consoles. This is yet another conspiracy that seems to have some truth to it and no company has come up to deny it.

Hulu blocks the ps3 browser because of Microsoft

Back before every console had a live internet browser, the X-Box 360 was the only one with the functionality. Sony later updated their system to include an internet browser on the PS3, suddenly opening up a fresh new wave of content that could be accessed on the PS3. BBC iPlayer, Hulu, and a host of other video streaming websites were suddenly free for the picking until Sony updated the browser once again, removing the functionality. Many began to theorize that Hulu threatened to sue them, or that Microsoft gave Hulu money to block them and a slew of other theories. Laster on a Hulu app was added, so the whole situation worked itself out.

Nintendo DS games have subliminal Islamic messages

Sadly intolerance rears its ugly head many times in many situations and videogames are not immune to this. In our time of sensationalized reporting on terrorism by the media, all it takes is one unfortunate sound bite to make folks terrified of pretty much anything. The news had a field day when some lady made a hysterical plea to the media that Nintendo was trying to turn children into Al Qaeda sleeper agents:

“Months ago, Rachel Jones was shocked to discover her 4-year-old’s baby doll seemed to have a hidden message: Islam is the light. Imagine her surprise when a game for her 8-year-old daughter’s Nintendo DS had the same message. Rachel said she bought the Nintendo game Baby Pals as a gift for her 8-year-old daughter after a good report card.”

This news story created quite a stir and had Christian groups up in arms against Japanese toy makers. The actual sound clip was basically a bunch of random noises that sort of sounded like what the lady claims if you are listening for it and TRYING to hear things that aren’t there. The sound in question was actually a stock sound that a company created for use in toys and games, much like a company that creates stock photographs. Even if it did, why would a bit of Arabic be something bad, Arabic is not “Islamic messages”, saying that is insanely misguided and shows how much Islamophobia can control somebody’s life.

Well there you have it! With nuclear PS2s, surveillant PS3s, and the odd exploding Wii, it’s probably not safe to play games anymore. You better put on your tin foil hat and live in the woods. The safe safe woods. Nah maybe not!

Note: This is a slightly edited version of an article I posted on a now-defunct gaming website called Gamrfeed (in around 2010) that I wrote, as with some of this videogame-related stuff I am posting it again to preserve it. I always figure that some of this could be of some value to my new readers.

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