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Balloon stunt raises anger in San Francisco

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Red Tide - Photo: Andrea Swenson Dunlap

A publicity stunt intended to advertise upcoming shooter Homefront ended up backfiring this week when 10,000 red balloons, released by publisher THQ into the San Francisco skies, wound up in the waters of the Bay itself, angering local environmentalists.

Scheduled for release on March 15, Homefront takes place in 2027, and sees a belligerent and heavily armed North Korean army invades the mainland of the United States. The balloons were released in a mock protest against the game's fictional North Korean regime, and coincided with this week's Game Developers Conference taking place in downtown San Francisco.

But what goes up, must come down -- and thanks to San Francisco's notoriously dreary weather, it didn't take long for the thousands of balloons, weighed down by windy, rainy
conditions, to wind up touching down in the Bay. Pictures of balloon-covered
waters flooded the Internet, and local residents took to Facebook to express
their outrage.

The balloons carried the name of retailer Gamestop, but in a statement the retailer denied
responsibility, saying it had no prior knowledge of the stunt and pointing the finger at publisher THQ instead.

And THQ? In a statement, the publisher's vice-president of corporate communications, Julia MacMedan assured concerned San Franciscans that the balloons wouldn't be
troubling them for long.

"The balloons that were released are completely biodegradable," she told Cnet. "They start the process of biodegrading as soon as they're blown up with the helium. There should not be any environmental concerns." Regardless, the publisher has hired a clean-up crew to deal with the mess.

Local environmentalists weren't impressed, pointing out that, biodegradable or not,
the latex balloons could still pose a threat to wildlife while they undergo the
decomposition process -- and Cnet further observes the culprits could face
prosecution under anti-littering laws.

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