The headline says it all, really. Public relations departments have a tough job: get people talking about your game. Some companies stick to the well-worn forms of getting things done — TV advertisements, billboards, sending out copies to press — while others decide to roll the dice and see what happens.
This isn’t exclusive to games, mind you, but our industry has seen some, uh, interesting ways of generating conversation.
Take, for example, God of War II. The Greek-themed action series is full of sex, violence, and larger-than-life heroes and villains. It’s easy to imagine a suitably risqué event that tried to capture those elements in a party-like atmosphere, but what probably doesn’t come to mind is dragging forth a literal dead goat.
Yes, that actually happened.
The sensationalist UK tabloid the Daily Mail broke the news back in May 2007. Well, “news.” They didn’t attend the event, but published some pages from the Official UK PlayStation Magazine. Here’s how the Daily Mail described it:
Guests at the event were even invited to reach inside the goat’s still-warm carcass to eat offal from its stomach.
At the event, guests competed to see who could eat the most offal — procured elsewhere and intended to resemble the goat’s intestines — from its stomach.
They also threw knives at targets and pulled live snakes from a pit with their bare hands.
Topless girls added to the louche atmosphere by dipping grapes into guests’ mouths, while a male model portraying Kratos, the game’s warrior hero, handed out garlands.
Sony initially responded by apologizing for the event, recalled 80,000 copies of the magazine from circulation, and promised an internal investigation.
“It has come to our attention that at the God Of War II launch showcase, an element of the event was of an unsuitable nature,” a Sony spokesperson told the Daily Mail. “We are conducting an internal inquiry into aspects of the event in order to learn from the occurrence and put into place measures to ensure that this does not happen again.”
In a statement to Joystiq, the company later claimed some of the “facts” were wrong. Apparently, most of the article was based on a promotional flyer, not what actually happened at the event. But, yes, there was a dead goat.
For one, no food was served from the goat’s stomach.
The ‘warm entrails’ referred to in the invitation and in the Mail on Sunday article was actually a meat soup, made to a traditional Greek recipe and served to attendees in china bowls direct from the caterers. There was never any question of journalists being able to touch the goat, or indeed eat the soup direct from the body of the goat, as one report has alleged. The goat was returned to the butcher at the end of the event.
Two, the magazine reportedly chose only the most ridiculous shots possible.
The photograph was one of many supplied to the magazine to provide a balanced view of the event. Unfortunately, the article was sensationalised and focused on a picture that was unrepresentative of the wider event. When we saw the article for the first time on Thursday of last week we contacted the Publisher of OPSM who accepted that the article was not appropriate for their broad audience. On Friday, before we had received any contact from the media, they agreed to remove the centre page article before the magazine goes on general sale.
Three… Well, Sony still admitted it snarfed up.
We recognise that the use of a dead goat was in poor taste and fell below the high standards of conduct we set ourselves. We are conducting an enquiry to establish the circumstances behind the event in order to ensure this does not happen again. We also apologise to anyone offended by the article in the OPSM (subscription copies were sent out ahead of street date).
Wonder what they will think up for God of War on PlayStation 4?!