Blackwater founder Erik Prince hopes to expand the Blackwater brand to include videogames, while simultaneously avoiding the controversy that has surrounded his company for years.
If you've missed the news over the last decade, Blackwater is a private military group hired by the US government to assist in the war in the Middle East. In 2007, Blackwater personnel allegedly shot 17 civilians in Baghdad. US military reports on the incident indicate that the firm's operatives opened fire without provocation and used excessive force.
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against the company including a 2008 suit by the US Justice Department, but to date every attempt at litigation against Blackwater has been thrown out of court.
Recently, Blackwater changed its name to "Xe Services" in what many critics believe is an attempt to shed the company's bloody reputation.
Still, founder Erik Prince sees value in the Blackwater brand, and has teamed with publisher 505 Games and developer Zombie Studios to create a Kinect shooter based on a fictionalized version of the firm's exploits.
The goal, Prince claims, is to create an entertainment product first and foremost. He doesn't want to aim for pure, hardcore realism, but instead for a fun shooter experience. "This is not a training device. This is not a simulator. We're not doing this to teach folks how to conduct military operations in an urban terrain. That's not it at all. This is more along the lines of kids running around their neighborhood playing cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians," Prince told the Associated Press.
Though Prince, a former Navy SEAL, left the daily operations of Blackwater a few years ago, he retained licensing rights to the name and seemingly sees this venture as a simple attempt to capitalize on the firm's fame. Likewise, he realizes that the game's existence is bound to generate some controversy, but his stated goal is to simply entertain players.
"Some people are not always going to like Blackwater, but there are many millions of people that do like Blackwater. I'm not out to rehabilitate an image. We're out to provide a good experience and enjoyable game," Prince adds.
The game, succinctly dubbed Blackwater, will debut on October 28.
Say what you will of private military corporations, the war in Iraq or the brutality of human conflict in general, but you can't deny that Prince has a keen eye for capitalism. Controversy sells, whether he's courting it or not.
If nothing else this should be a neat test of which human drive is more powerful: consumerist curiosity or moral outrage.