No Safe Harbour For Deceptive Advertising

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Here's a website called

which is a site claiming to offer "free games" in return for installing a Toolbar. The site is owned by a company called based in Cheung Sha Wan, Hong Kong.

Aside from the rather suspect "Limited Time" notice on the splash page (does anyone actually believe claims like that?) and the fact that certain links taking you to the page will claim "for your region only" messages despite the fact that anyone can clearly download it from anywhere, the biggest bit of truth stretching is reserved for the large image splash guaranteed to get any gamer salivating:

Oblivion! Dead Rising! Fable 2! Grand Theft Auto 4! You're not actually going to get any of these games, but who cares - if they convinced a passing user to download and install this Toolbar on the strength of that graphic then "Dubious Marketing 101" has done its job.

The program itself comes from

...and continues to put the idea into the mind of the downloader that there'll be some sort of console related "bonus" at the end of all this by making the Executable look like the buttons on a Playstation 2 joypad:


The installer splash screen continues this trend - not content with riffing off the back of what might be the most famous joypad related button icons in memory, they then throw in what's clearly designed to be an XBox 360 joypad graphic too:

Click to Enlarge

The Playstation button icons floating off directly above it is a nice touch, I guess. Anyway, we're only moments away from must be some amazing console type deal and then...


....horror of horrors! For some reason, they don't want this to be installed on a virtual PC! Could this be because they really don't want people like myself testing it then telling the World how bad a deal it is?

Oh well, time to break out a real PC then. You'd think people would learn by now that if someone wants to test something, then they're going to test it. Anyway...


...wait. Internet optimizers, cashback assistants and media access startup? What are those? Why do I want them? Who knows, but wading through the EULA that's practically biblical in length doesn't really help. Onwards and upwards, we agree to the install and then...

Oh good. Bingo., originally uploaded by Paperghost.

...we find the Toolbar is indeed installed, and our browser is taking us to a website about bingo. The fact that there's no visible sign anywhere on the desktop in relation to optimizers or cashback assistants doesn't trouble our gamer - he just wants to go PEW PEW a lot. With that in mind, he jumps over to the other side of the Toolbar and clicks what must be the answer to his prayers:


Call it a hunch, or some magical form of intuition - but despite another image of an XBox controller, I suspect this is going to end badly. Sure enough:

Wait, this isn't GTA4!, originally uploaded by Paperghost.

...our confused gamer is taken to

which (it's fair to say) probably isn't the magical console games factory he was expecting.

What we're left with, is a collection of mind blowingly awful games that in no way, shape or form represent the titles splashed all over the main GameHarbor website. Some require you to download gaming clients then hose 150MB of your bandwidth to play things that are probably bested by free flash games; others will probably make our Toolbar toting gamer rip his hair out as he's installed a Toolbar to "play free games", only to find...


...he has to either play "free" for an hour, or BUY the "unlimited version" for $6.99.

You couldn't make it up. But then you don't have to, as the face punching reality of lame advertising that promises much and delivers little is already with us.

Avoid this harbour like the plague - the real thing is much better, and you don't have to worry about Internet Saving Optimizers, either...


Oh, and to add insult to injury? At least based on the games shown in the screenshot, these are legit shareware games that can be downloaded without any of that spyware mess.

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This page contains a single entry by Christopher Boyd published on June 9, 2009 9:43 AM.

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