All Geek to me: How not to market your game in two easy steps

In All Geek to Me, Columns, Columns, Opinion

Marketing is certainly a hit-or-miss style industry. Sometimes you strike gold when the jingles, catch-phrases or pictures ring with consumers and executives spend the next quarter jumping into piles of money a la Scrooge McDuck.

Sometimes commercials are intentionally created to go viral (the Old Spice guy) while others achieve fame less purposefully (the Snuggie).

And then there are the times that marketing backfires so much it ends up hurting the very product it’s designed to help.

Hitman: Absolution, a game developed by IO Interactive released by Square Enix in November, has been the unfortunate victim of some horrible marketing by its publisher and advertising team. While the game itself seems to be at least decent, you wouldn’t necessarily know that from looking at the ads.

First off, there was the trailer for the game released back in May, well before the game’s launch. The video featured—and I can’t believe I have to type something like this—a team of scantily clad nun-themed assassins with heavy weapons as they are attacked and killed off by the series’ main character, Agent 47. Sexily. And creepily. Creepily as to how the women pictured were being sexualized, fetishized, and then killed.

Just writing it makes me cringe, to be honest.

This sparked a backlash, even in the young-male dominated landscape that makes up the target market for these kinds of trailers. The developer later apologized for the way the trailer had been interpreted, stating they had not meant to offend anyone.

Well, then what did they think the trailer was going to accomplish?

“Oh sweet!” They expected us to exclaim, “I can’t wait to shoot sexy nuns in the face!”

Thankfully, as many things that need to change in the gaming industry, the gaming audience has at least (mostly) matured past that kind of grossness. By the way, was these sexy nuns all this fuss was about? They’re in a small part of one mission in the entire game.

But that was half a year ago, why are we talking about this now?

Well we’re mentioning it because apparently IO or Square Enix or whoever they’ve hired for their marketing hasn’t really learned their lesson. They have chosen instead to make even more bad decisions before hastily apologizing for the multiple groups they’ve offended.

On Tuesday, a Facebook app was launched to promote the game after its release. The premise? After allowing the app access to your account, you can assign “hits” on your friends.

“Haha, hilarious! I can promote this game via thinly veiled death threats posted on my friends’ Facebook timelines. How droll!”

As if that wasn’t enough bad ideas for one marketing scheme, you can also give info regarding the person’s appearance (so Agent 47 can identify them), such as “ginger hair,” “her hairy legs,” “strange odor,” or “big ears.”

I am not making this up. But wait, it gets better.

Why order hits on your friends? You can provide a reason as well.

“Cheating on their partner,” “laziest person alive,” and “farts too much” are a few of the delightfully offensive options you can choose. But none are as good as options like “her small tits” or “his tiny penis.”

Yes. After selecting a friend whose endowments you find lacking, a message will be posted on their wall and they will have the option to watch a neat little video of Agent 47 taking them out.


The real question here is how on Earth any of these completely and indefensibly reprehensible ideas were allowed to be published! Sure, Square Enix immediately pulled the app and apologized, almost before gaming websites had time to publish anything about it, but that simply exacerbated the question of why it was ever approved in the first place.

It’s not just the fault of whoever thought of it, as stupid as they must be, but the fault of almost everyone else in charge that didn’t notice that this was possibly the worst marketing idea in the world.

As for the game? It’s just OK.

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