The controversy created by Hitman: Absolution's "Attack of the Saints" trailer wasn't the sort of attention that Square Enix was looking for.
You probably remember the Hitman: Absolution trailer with the squad of sexy nun assassins, and you probably remember the uproar that followed it, and you probably remember IO Interactive claiming, in all seriousness, that it did not see the controversy coming. That may be a bit hard to swallow but Square Enix Marketing Director Cord Smith insists that the publisher was caught by surprise too, at least in part because the creative team was focused on the specifics of advertising guidelines, which left it doing things like painting latex bondage gear onto exposed backsides.
"It's hard for any of us being immersed in a world or a creative field or a particular project to pull yourself out of that bubble," he said at the International Game Summit in Montreal. "But when you do try to see an asset like that with fresh eyes and say, 'What if you knew nothing about this? How you would react?' And it was only at that point I think we looked at it and [understood]."
The net result of the furor wasn't necessarily good or bad for the game, but while there may be no such thing as bad press, Smith said this wasn't the sort of attention Square Enix was interested in. "In general, you'd imagine any controversy provides increased awareness of the game's existence," he continued. "So if you're just looking from an awareness standpoint, maybe it's helpful in spite of the tone of some of the comments and debates that went on. But I don't think it was something we would want to exploit, that sort of awareness. It's a difficult thing from a public relations side. Do you try to dispel it or provide people with enough context to have a more educated conversation about it? Or do you kind of let it burn out?"
IO Interactive did take a bit of stab at the "educated conversation" route, explaining shortly after the trailer hit that it was aiming for a sort of grindhouse vibe with the trailer and that a lack of context also worked against it. It also quickly apologized for the whole thing, but hunkering down and waiting for it to blow over hasn't worked out very well either; Forbes published an interview with a former stripper yesterday who questioned the practicality of platform stilettos in combat and described the trailer as "an excuse to show violence against women by making them the initiators of violence."