I arrived home yesterday after a long day of sipping cocktails in the Playboy office to find a package on my doorstep. Inside: no note, no business card, no contact info, no context—just a North Korean Android smartphone.
The Apex Aphone, it’s called. It’s brand new. There’s a user manual, a USB cord and a wall plug for some country other than this one.
OK, I thought. I used to cover consumer technology when I was a freelancer. I’m probably on some mailing list for tech journalists still.
I checked Apex’s Twitter account. Headquarters: Pyongyang, North Korea. Again, OK; South Korea is one of the biggest producers of smartphones, and North Korea started in on the action back in 2013. I guess it’s plausible that young Kimmy Jong-un would start sending their phones to worldwide press for review. I guess?
This kind of made sense—kind of. But the account only had 66 followers when I checked (97 as of this writing). That seemed odd. I did a quick Twitter term search for “Apex Aphone” and the pieces started to fall into place.
The phone had one video file on it, titled “PLAY ME.” Watch it below:
So yeah, this is a Homefront: The Revolution thing. The sequel to the 2011 game Homefront, the game has had some setbacks on its way to release, changing development hands multiple times. It’s finally set to come out in May.
The Revolution’s story concerns an alternate future in which North Korea has invaded the US and we’re living under the Korean People’s Army oppressive thumb. Watching the video again, I realized the military scenes, the tagline—"our past, your future"—even the scenes of happy couples and frolicking children had acquired a new, slightly menacing tone. I put the phone down.
Video game companies have lots of ways to get the press’s attention. They range from “normal” to “what is even going on.” At the bottom of that scale is an emailed press release, the kind we get dozens of every week. At the top is this package.
Homefront: The Revolution publisher Deep Silver could have sent this video out as a YouTube link in an email, and no one would have given a shit. Instead I was greeted at my doorstep by a promotional package that legitimately confused and slightly terrified me for a good ten minutes before I figured out what was going on.
In a job where even the joy of getting free stuff has been dulled over the years, this was a pleasant surprise. I’m newly excited for Homefront: The Revolution. Now I just need to figure out what to do with this phone.
Mike Rougeau is Playboy.com’s Gaming Editor, in charge of all things video games. He switched to Android for a year once, then went back to iPhone. Follow him on Twitter @RogueCheddar.