Like a slow-burning fuse, it’s taken a little while for the furore over Slavery: The Game to ignite properly. But now that it has, the ripples are still radiating, illustrating just how the general public has shifted in recent years. Formerly, we’d fall over ourselves believing that something made-up was the real deal. Today, we’re hoping that this one is nothing but a hoax.
Put simply, a new website and freshly-released trailer have popped up, advertising a real-time strategy title: Slavery: The Game. It’s already offending people across the globe, please use your discretion before watching.
As shocking as that is, there are already a number of signs which suggest this particular release is nothing but a marketing stunt – a viral promotion for something we can’t yet recognise.
An early version of the video included a reference to The Creative Assembly who were onboard as developer. The Sega-owned company (developers of the Total War series) has been quick to distance itself from the project, claiming no knowledge of the “alleged title”.
The latest version of the trailer – and the game’s website (tucked away behind an age gate) – makes no mention of any developer attached to the project, beyond the as-yet unknown company Javelin Reds.
A little sneaky sleuthing across the internets has turned up virtually nothing. The Escapist reports that the phone number listed on the site heads straight to a Google Voice inbox based in Kentucky, and there’s some confusion over where emails sent to the posted email address actually go. Information on the domain itself is hidden, revealing nothing about who registered the site, or where they come from. It seems that cheap domain registrar Go Daddy was used, and rumours suggest the company may actually be based in Europe.
Javelin Reds is also pretty much unknown online – but a quick rearrangement of the company’s name presents “De Slavernij”, Dutch for “the slavery” (thanks to a YouTube commenter for that one).
The trailer itself shows an ESRB Adults Only warning – but there is no mention of the game in the database at time of printing. It’s also worth noting that there are a very small number of ESRB Adults Only games in existence – none of them for console (any console titles which were given an AO rating were all either scrapped or edited prior to release). In the U.S., the AO rating brings with it the stigma of not being stocked in certain stores, significantly decreasing the potential profits of the game. In addition, we’re not sure how fond either Microsoft or Sony would be about having an adult-rated game available on their platforms – particularly not one dealing with an issue as controversial as slave trading. (Both companies are not likely to be terribly pleased that their logos are being used on the trailer, either…)
Previously, games such as Dante’s Inferno and Homefront have used controversial marketing tactics which have backfired into real-world protests (EA copped massive backlash from Christians following E3 2009, while THQ faced a significant cleanup bill after GDC 2011).
There’s no such thing as bad promotion, they say – getting your name out there is always good, regardless of what form it takes. That said, we’re thinking that Slavery: The Game might be taking the wrong approach.
…regardless of what it actually is, however, Slavery: The Game is getting an awful lot of eyeballs, and a bucketload of clicks. News of the alleged game is sweeping the internet, and whatever it’s promoting is getting plenty of airtime. Once the ulterior motive is revealed though, will anyone look favourably on the way the product was marketed?
Incidentally, trivia buffs – that is a Wilhelm Scream at 0:20 in the video.
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