Say hello to the "booth bath babe": a pictorial journey by Chris Jager.
Last week, I attended the official Asian launch of World Of Tanks: Blitz in Taipei, Taiwan. The event was pretty casual, with only a handful of journalists and Wargaming.net developers in attendance.
However, while the launch event may have been kept under the radar, the booth babes were anything but. Belligerently sticking with the radar analogy, they were bigger than the friggin' Bloop. You guys know about the Bloop, right? Look it up. It's scary.
But anyway. Booth babes, eh? Unless you're spruiking a modelling agency simulator (which I would totally play, by the way) there's really no excuse for festooning your video game booth in such a saucy manner. These sexy, sentient signposts serve no pragmatic purpose whatsoever. They also distract from the actual product and alienate a large segment of customers. (Plus, they usually smile in a manner that never reaches their eyes — exactly like the Terminatrix in Terminator 3.)
Despite the above drawbacks, games publishers seem to love 'em. As the old adage goes; "Sex sells" — even when it looks bored and clearly doesn't want to be there.
Nowhere was this more pertinent than at the World Of Tanks' Taipei launch. The booth babes were everywhere, from the centre stage to the media registration desk. I'm at least 50 per cent sure this is the first time I've been asked to sign an embargo by a video game rep decked out in a push-up bra and hot pants. It was an odd experience — and things were about to get weirder.
At first glance, the showroom floor was much like any other mobile gaming launch: there was a fleet of iPads lining the walls, roaming trays of canapes and a scrum of mostly male journalists trying to play-test the game, conduct interviews and take photographs all at the same time. Throw in a few novelty katana blades and it could have been a Fruit Ninja launch.
However — off to one side was an elevated booth divided into three compartments. According to Wargaming.net, this was meant to symbolise the game's "play anywhere" nature via a range of real-world scenarios. Curiously, every real-world scenario involved a scantily-clad female model. That's your cue to call shenanigans.
These are some of the "babes" that Wargaming.net reckons will be playing its new mobile offering:
#1 The game-loving soldier
The first "lifestyle booth" was dedicated to members of the armed forces who can now indulge in mass destruction on their iPads when they're not doing it for real on deployment. Of the three booths on display, this "babe" probably had the least humiliating role to play. (As an added bonus, she got to fantasise about blowing us all away.)
By the way, I'm pretty sure that's not a standard issue soldier's uniform she's wearing. The non-camo watch is a dead giveaway.
#2 The Taipei stall merchant
The second "lifestyle booth" attempted to add some local flavour by recreating a typical Taipei night market. Presumably, the rank stench of stinky tofu really helps to enhance the game's sensory assault. (Incidentally, they have shaved ice dessert topped with mango at most of these markets — why would anyone choose to play World Of Tanks when they could be scarfing down shaved ice mangoes instead? Priorities people!)
#3 The er, bath lady
What better way to relax after a long day at work than soaking in the tub with a tank warfare MMO for company? The chance of real-life electrocution must really add an extra layer of tension to the gameplay.
Also, that's not a hologram or anything. There really was a woman sitting in bath at the event. Somebody greenlit this idea. A bath tub was carried into the venue specifically so this could happen.
And the rest
Does anyone remember those World of Tanks promo models who copped flak for flouting PAX Australia's zero-tolerance ban on booth babes? They apparently became war refugees in Taiwan. (The one on the right was really working overtime for her New Taiwan Dollars, incidentally. It was both erotic and embarrassing for everyone involved.)
The weirdness didn't end with the context-shoehorned booth babes either. Here, two Wargaming.net developers are filling a map-shaped tank with vodka. It's how they roll in Belarus, apparently.
Reiko from Ridge Racer appears to have wandered in from the wrong franchise. What's that all about, eh?
There was also lots of glitter falling from the ceiling. From left to right, the pictured Wargaming.net personnel are Raman Bui (Mobile Game Product Manager), Jasper Nicolas (General Manager of Wargaming Asia) and Maxim Chuvalov (PR and Marketing Manager). I didn't catch the names of the booth babes, sadly.
Y'know, it will be interesting to see which World Of Tank Taipei launch article gets the most traffic. As much as I hope one of the more cerebral posts will claim quiet victory, I have a sneaking suspicion it will be a booth-babe blitzkrieg. This probably goes to prove something although I'm not sure what.
(If anyone is interested in the actual game, you check out last last week's coverage here.)