You can't help but notice this ad - especially if you're a guy.
With Hitman: Blood Money set for May release across several platforms, Eidos is throwing major marketing bucks at a controversial, full-page spread of an alluring, lingerie-clad woman. The words "Beautifully Executed" appear atop the ad.
The woman lies on a bed of gold satin sheets; her come-hither pose is deliberately eroticized - until you realize there is a small bullet hole in the middle of her forehead. Only then do you notice a carmine pool of blood spreading around her pillow. It's easy to see why you missed it initially. At at first glance the blood seems to be just more accessorizing; it's color-coordinated with the woman's lingerie and high heels.
The violent, erotic nature of the ad has spawned controversy; A-list game blog Joystiq recently asked their readers to analyze the ad and offer their views. Some, like Kate, found the ad unacceptable:
"Whether or not it's the intention, it is yet another drop in the bucket of cases of violence against a sexualized woman. Thus, it contributes to a culture of acceptance of those messages." Similar arguments centered around whether a non-gamer would be able to look at the picture and understand what the ad is all about. Still others wondered whether or not Hitman: Blood Money would be tagged with the usual "murder simulator," label, perhaps even inspiring criminals to copycat violent acts committed in the game.
One of the more controversial issues among the Joystiq crowd was whether or not the ad promotes rape. Joystiq editor Vladimir Cole writes, "It's clear that a semi-naked woman carefully arranged on a bed has clear and prominent sexual connotations and that if rape isn't explicitly evoked, it's implicit in the situation."
Several readers asserted that the ad does not come close to promoting rape. They cite the fact that the "victim" is not visually bruised or harmed in any way (well, except for the bullet in her head). One asked, "Why in the world would any sane ad agency risk making an advertisement that glorifies rape?"
On the flip side, some gamers found the ad brilliant marketing, primarily because targeted buyers for Hitman: Blood Money are men. Folks in this camp argued that those offended by the ad were simply reading too much into it. benhc911, for example, remarked, "It fits their campaign perfectly, and is nothing new or shocking."
GP: ...not to jump in on Monica's piece, but as a guy I'm highly offended by any insinuation that guys in general are turned on by violence against women...
MV: Amidst all of the controversy and speculation surrounding the ad, there is one thing that both sides can agree on: from a marketing standpoint, this ad was successful in the sense that it has drawn widespread attention to the game. Whether there is longer-term fallout remains to be seen. We'll probably hear more about this controversy as Hitman: Blood Money gets closer to retail release.
-Reporting from Wisconsin, GP correspondent Monica Valentinelli