Sony Computer Entertainment has launched an internal inquiry following an event in Athens last month that featured a decapitated goat and topless models to promote its new game "God of War II."
The game carries a "mature" rating and is intended for those at least 17 years or older because of its "blood and gore," "intense violence" and "nudity," according to Sony's Web site. It recently launched in various European countries.
The event was held last month but has come to light now because photos of it are being published in the June issue of the "Official PlayStation Magazine" in the U.K. The Daily Mail newspaper published one of the photos on its Web site Sunday, featuring a scantily clad woman and a man dressed as a cave man standing over the dead goat.
Sony has decided to halt distribution of the magazine to remove the two-page section from 80,000 copies that were due to hit newsstands in the U.K. on Tuesday, according to a spokesman at the magazine's publisher, Future. Removing the section is "quite a task," the spokesman said. About 2,000 copies of the magazine have already been mailed to subscribers, however.
Animal welfare groups were quick to condemn the incident. "Causing unnecessary suffering to an animal for fun is completely unacceptable," a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said on Monday.
Sony in the U.K. acknowledged that "an element of the event was of an unsuitable nature" but played down its gruesomeness. The goat was supplied by a butcher and the event, organized by a Greek production company, was intended to be based on Greek mythology, the company said in a statement.
Guests were not "invited to reach inside the goat's still-warm carcass to eat offal from its stomach," as the Mail had reported, the company said. Rather, they were offered bowls of food intended to represent the goat's intestines, it said.
The controversy is unlikely to win Sony much favor from those opposed to violent video games, although some gamers seemed bored by the brouhaha.
"Anyway, the game is really good," one reader from Sweden wrote on the Daily Mail's Web site.
"At the end of the day, we eat meat every day of our lives, why don't we complain about that?" added a reader named Tom from England. "You can bet money on it some of them are slaughtered in inhuman ways anyway."
Kostas Farkonas, a freelance journalist who covers the gaming industry in Greece, said he did not attend the "God of War II" but had heard about it.
"It was a bit extreme, sure," Farkonas said. "But in all the years of covering gaming, we've seen worse."