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Posted by: Matt Vella on January 24
A tiff between Fox News and Electronic Arts (ERTS) may be turning into a scuttle. According to reports cropping up on the web, the games giant may now be asking Fox to correct statements made on a recent segment of its Live Desk show about the company’s popular Mass Effect title, released last November.
Yesterday, the games blog Kotaku published excerpts of a politely worded letter said to have been written by EA VP of Communications Jeff Brown to Teri VanHorn, producer of the Fox program. In the letter Brown asks the network correct “serious errors” and rebuts some of the claims made during the program.
The segment showed a stunning lack of familiarity with the subject, suggesting the game “shows full digital nudity and sex.” In truth, the game’s sexual content is brief and would likely pass PG-13 standards. My colleague and BusinessWeek marketing guru Burt Helm noted this morning how badly Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) had misplayed the disastrous Hot Coffee Grand Theft Auto controversy. EA’s robust response to the Mass Effect coverage may be a reaction to how quickly such controversy can spiral out of control.
Excerpts from the letter published by Kotaku and a video of the segment, after the jump.
Exerpts from the letter:
Your headline above the televised story read: "New videogame shows full digital nudity and sex."
Fact: Mass Effect does not include explicit or frontal nudity. Love scenes in non-interactive sequences include side and profile shots - a vantage frequently used in many prime-time television shows. It's also worth noting that the game requires players to develop complex relationships before characters can become intimate and players can chose to avoid the love scenes altogether.
FNC voice-over reporter says: "You'll see full digital nudity and the ability for players to engage in graphic sex."
Fact: Sex scenes in Mass Effect are not graphic. These scenes are very similar to sex sequences frequently seen on network television in prime time.
FNC reporter says: "Critics say Mass Effect is being marketed to kids and teenagers."
Fact: That is flat out false. Mass Effect and all related marketing has been reviewed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and rated Mature - appropriate for players 17-years and older. ESRB routinely counsels retailers on requesting proof of age in selling M-rated titles and the system has been lauded by members of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. In practical terms, the ratings work as well or better than those used for warning viewers about television content.
The resulting coverage was insulting to the men and women who spent years creating a game which is acclaimed by critics for its high creative standards. As video games continue to take audiences away from television, we expect to see more TV news stories warning parents about the corrupting influence of interactive entertainment. But this represents a new level of recklessness.
Do you watch the Fox Network? Do you watch Family Guy? Have you ever seen The OC? Do you think the sexual situations in Mass Effect are any more graphic than scenes routinely aired on those shows? Do you honestly believe that young people have more exposure to Mass Effect than to those prime time shows?
This isn't a legal threat; it's an appeal to your sense of fairness. We're asking FNC to correct the record on Mass Effect.
Vice President of Communications
Electronic Arts, Inc.
And the original segment:
No longer child's play, the booming global games market is worth billions of dollars. In Games, Inc., BusinessWeek Innovation writer Matt Vella and Tokyo correspondent Kenji Hall analyze emerging business trends in video games and interactive entertainment. They’ll examine everything from button-mashing, chart-topping, console games to serious games commissioned by big corporations to train staff. They’ll also map the evolution of expansive virtual worlds and go behind the strategies at companies that are turning play into big business.