An E3 protest against Electronic Arts by a church group outraged over the publisher’s upcoming action-adventure game Dante’s Inferno now appears to have been nothing more than a publicity stunt.

A group of 13 protesters stood outside E3 yesterday, holding signs with messages like “Trade in your PlayStation for a PrayStation,” “Hell is not a game,” “My high score is in Heaven” and “EA = Electronic Anti-Christ.” The Los Angeles Times reported that the group had come in from Ventura County to protest Dante’s Inferno, an upcoming game loosely based on the literary classic of the same name.

“We think this game should never come out,” said protester Matthew Francis, who also asked reporters to pass that message along to EA executives at E3 since his group wasn’t allowed inside. The protesters also passed out brochures that warned, “A video game hero does not have the authority to save and damn… Only God can judge, and he will not judge the sinners who play this game kindly.”

But it now looks like the whole thing was nothing more than a publicity stunt, presumably put on by EA itself. The brochure handed out by the group points to, a laughably retro website that appears at first blush to condemn the game but also includes links to high-res trailers and EA’s own Dante’s Inferno site. The site was registered on June 1 through Domains By Proxy, which lets people put up websites anonymously.

EA hasn’t commented but at this point it seems clear that the whole thing is a promotional stunt. It’s an interesting ploy, although I have to wonder if EA’s enthusiastic representation of the Church as shallow-minded reactionaries is an entirely good idea. Unlike the game, that could actually give them something to be angry about.

Dante’s Inferno is in development at Visceral Games (formerly EA Redwood Shores), the studio behind Dead Space, and is targeted for release in early 2010.

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