Hitman: Absolution Marketing Takes Things A Bit Too Far

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Hitman: Absolution Marketing Takes Things A Bit Too Far

Recently, a new gaming marketing campaign came on line...and went off line in about an hour. What on earth could have been so preposterous, so potentially damaging to a company's reputation, indeed, so damaging to the reputations of gamers everywhere? Settle in, because this is a story that's likely to amaze.

The folks behind Hitman: Absolution, the newest story of Agent 47 and his regular murder sprees for hire, came out with a new marketing ploy to get folks interested in the release. Now, bear in mind that they were already treading somewhat on thin ice for the "half-naked nuns" concept from the trailer, so you'd think they might have toned down the outrageousness for the newest promotion.

They did not.

What they established was a website called "Hire Hitman", in which users were encouraged to "take out a contract" against various Facebook friends. Those who were "hit" could link back to the "Hire Hitman" site from Facebook and take out their own contracts against their friends or the friends that called hits on them in the first place.

Simulated murder for hire may be a bit on the dodgy side, but then, this is "Hitman: Absolution", after all, not "Happy Fun Time In Sunshine World". A bit darker promotion is somewhat appropriate given the subject matter. But when it came time for those who wanted to call hits on their friends via the "Hire Hitman" interface to note how their targets could be identified, that was when the troubles really got started.

The targets could be identified by certain "distinguishing characteristics", including "his big ears", "his hairy back", "his big gut", and worse on from there. The array of "hers" targets didn't fare much better and were similarly less complimentary. Some might call this in poor taste, but some actually went so far as to call it "cyber-bullying", a growing phenomenon that many are interested in there being much less of, not much more of as this particular campaign seemed to encourage.

And with that, Square issued apologies, pulled the site down, and carried on, only one hour after launching it in the first place.

Gamers do not have the best of reputations. In many quarters, gamers are seen as arrested development cases, man-children who live in their parents' basements off junk food, constantly at play, without an original thought in their head or a bar of soap in their lives. Needless to say, this doesn't make us look good, and in fact, it keeps a lot of folks who would have been gamers out of the pool because they think it's populated by the vast unwashed that you hear about at conventions sometimes. There's a reason the phrase "con funk" was invented and it has nothing to do with George Clinton.

The key thrust here is that games, and indeed, game marketers, are getting a bit out of hand. Frankly, seeing a menu where I can order insult assassinations on Facebook friends and call them out for particularly interesting body features doesn't make me want to rush out and play a game. I enjoy trailers, I need to see gameplay footage, and I want to hear what a game has in mind when it comes to a story. I rent most any game I want to play first and then consider purchases.

Insulting Facebook hits don't get my interest. Based on the response to "Hire Hitman", they don't get yours either. So let's elevate the discourse a little bit, keep it somewhat civil, and remember: there are people out there thinking about picking up a game system.

Let's make them feel welcome.

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