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Contest-driven development is the idea of taking certain elements of the game development process and putting them in the hands of the public through contests or polls. Aspects of games that could be affected by this can range anywhere from the game's title or the inclusion of Easter egg text to the direction of major or minor storyline events. Below are some examples of games that have had their development affected to one degree or another through public polls and contests.
Gears of War 3
On July 21, 2010, Microsoft and Epic Games announced a poll linked to the Penny Arcade charity Child's Play. Participants could to vote on the fate of Clayton Carmine in Gears of War 3 through purchasing either an Xbox 360 Avatar T-shirt over Xbox Live or a physical T-shirt at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con stating "Save Carmine" or "Carmine Must Die." Following the closure of the contest, Epic kept the results a secret until the game's release. The end result was that Clayton was allowed to live, though not without surviving several humorous near-death experiences.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Nintendo Power once held a contest in which the winner's name would be immortalized in an upcoming game. The winner was a reader by the name of Chris Houlihan, and the game in question was none other than the SNES title The Legend of Zelda: A LInk to the Past. Chris's name appears on a plaque located in a secret room filled with rupees. The actual act of accessing this room takes some doing, though there are supposedly multiple methods of reaching it. The website Game Trailers researched Chris Houlihan's room for a Pop-Fiction video segment and determined that the room is only accessible in the original SNES and Virtual Console versions of the game. Though it is included in the Game Boy Advance port, it has been rendered inaccessible without the use of hacking the code.
Saints Row: The Third
During the development of Saints Row: The Third, Volition offered a role in the game to the winner of a charity auction. David Abrams, a.k.a. CheapyD, the head of cheapassgamer.com, won the auction, and was subsequently invited to the Volition offices in order to have his appearance scanned and to record lines of dialogue. His in-game persona is being offered in the form of free DLC, where he joins the roster of the Boss's homies.