The Silence: Deep Silver Hiding From Torsogate

As I mentioned a few days ago, a popular technique from publishers who want bad news stories to go away is to employ silence. Just pull down the shutters, switch off the lights, and sit on the floor below the window until everybody goes away. And RPS has had enough of that nonsense, so we’re taking silence to be a response worth reporting. Such is the case for Deep Silver, who as Adam revealed the other day are still selling their dismembered, bikinied torso statuette version of Dead Island: Riptide, despite having previously apologised for even considering doing so.

Whatever your feelings on the statuette, what makes this so interesting is the peculiar PR practices that got us to this point. Here’s how it went down:

On the 15th January, we received a press release telling us of this amazing special edition of Dead Island: Riptide, in which you would receive a dismembered torso of a woman as a statuette. Astonished that this was real, we posted about it, rather outraged, as did very many other gaming sites. There was a lot of internet noise, which came to an end when Deep Silver issued an apology for it later that same day. It read, in full:

“We deeply apologize for any offense caused by the Dead Island Riptide “Zombie Bait Edition”, the collector’s edition announced for Europe and Australia. Like many gaming companies, Deep Silver has many offices in different countries, which is why sometimes different versions of Collector’s Editions come into being for North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

For the limited run of the Zombie Bait Edition for Europe and Australia, a decision was made to include a gruesome statue of a zombie torso, which was cut up like many of our fans had done to the undead enemies in the original Dead Island.

We sincerely regret this choice. We are collecting feedback continuously from the Dead Island community, as well as the international gaming community at large, for ongoing internal meetings with Deep Silver’s entire international team today. For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.”

That final paragraph seems pretty conclusive, yes? They “sincerely regret this choice” and they are “committed to making sure this will never happen again.” Well, as Adam pointed out earlier this week, no they weren’t. So what’s going on?

Why would a publisher make such a contrite, impassioned statement, and then just carry on regardless, selling the “Zombie Bait Edition” on Amazon and via GAME as if they’d never muttered a word? So we asked them, the day before yesterday. I sent an email to them, via their PR (who to the best of our knowledge has done his best to get a response for us), saying:

Could we get a statement from Deep Silver regarding the Dead Island torso? After their apology, it did seem rather like they wouldn’t be selling it. But of course they are.

So the question is, when saying,

“For now, we want to reiterate to the community, fans and industry how deeply sorry we are, and that we are committed to making sure this will never happen again.”

what did they mean? Because right now it looks like it was just a lie to make the story go away.

And, as you might have guessed, we’ve heard nothing back. Not a peep. Nor did we, I should add, back in January (although I think the email I sent might have read, “What the fuck are you thinking?!”).

And nor has anyone else, this time. There’s been no comment from the publisher since it was spotted that they were still selling the product they so deeply regretted and were so wholly sorry for having created. They’ve employed The Silence. The game is out, the thing’s on sale, so what do they care about talking to anyone about it?

So, yes, you can probably conclude that they’d had thousands of the things manufactured already, and didn’t want to lose a bunch of money on the things. And you can conclude that their apology at the time was completely insincere, and designed just to make the fuss die down while they were in full promotional swing for their game. A game, it turned out, that was pretty crap after all. But while there may be guessable reasons, cynical or otherwise, it remains the most bizarre behaviour to so openly and obviously deceive about something. What Deep Silver are failing to recognise is that trust does make a difference, and while companies like EA can swallow so much lost trust and survive, smaller publishers like them should surely be playing the game far more carefully than this?

Troublingly, Deep Silver are the publisher who got Saints Row out of the THQ jumble sale, a series that could so easily be hideously mishandled. And their attitude to this almighty mess is to pretend it’s not happening, to ignore the press they’ll certainly come running to when Metro: Last Light is about to release in a couple of weeks, and again when Saints Row 4 starts winding up its hype. It’s a very worrying attitude indeed.

We leave the ball in Deep Silver’s court. We’d love to report their statement on why the torso went on sale after they so heavily implied that it would not.

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