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Hitman cyberbullying game pulled by Square Enix, company apologizes

Square Enix apologized for a game that tasks players with assassinating their Facebook friends and providing ad hominem insults to justify the killing.

Launched today as a promotion for Hitman: Absolution, Hire Hitman immediately garnered controversy because of the insults' personal nature and was taken down within hours.

Created by U.K. advertising firm Ralph, Hire Hitman offered canned insults for male and female hits. The game allowed you to pick a Facebook friend, select a number of identifying characteristics — including "her small tits" and "his tiny penis" — and then send a video to the friend's Facebook wall, reports Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Reached for comment, a Square Enix official apologized for the app, saying it "went wide of the mark."

"Earlier today we launched an app based around Hitman: Absolution that allowed you to place virtual hits on your Facebook friends," a representative from Square Enix told Polygon via email. "Those hits would only be viewable by the recipient, and could only be sent to people who were confirmed friends."

Square Enix pulled the app based on the feedback it had received. "We were wide of the mark with the app, and following feedback from the community we decided the best thing to do was remove it completely and quickly. This we've now done.

"We're sorry for any offense caused by this."

The press release announcing the game this morning said, "Despite its seemingly dark heart, the experience has its tongue firmly in its cheek, allowing users to input whatever ridiculous reason they want for their friend to be terminated. Whether it's their bad taste in clothes or inability to get a round of drinks in, the target is left in no doubt as to their 'crime.'"

Since the app's launch, Twitter users have been reacting with a mixture of disbelief and incredulity.

"This Hitman facebook ad campaign has to be made up," wrote Nathan Vella, president of Capybara Games. "There's no way something like this gets made, then ok'd, then launched public."

"New Hitman Facebook App Promotes Bullying: Stupidity knows no bounds," wrote Twitter user John Barnes.

"The Hitman facebook advertising thing is just all the kinds of messed up. How did anyone think this was a good idea?" BioWare designer Jos Hendriks wrote.

The game's URL now redirects to the Hitman: Absolution website.

This is not the first time that Hitman: Absolution has stirred controversy this year. A trailer called "Nuns, Guns and Agent 47," which premiered at E3, depicted the game's protagonist, Agent 47, fighting a group of scantily clad female assassins. Some accused the trailer of sexualizing violence.

During E3, Mike Fischer, president of Square Enix's Americas told Polygon that the only intent was to remain true to the game.

"You know the game. You've played the game," he said. "It's got over-the-top violent action. It's got crazy sexy characters in costumes all through it. For people who know the game, they recognize that as being true to the spirit of the game. I think it's the people who are always looking for an excuse to take something from the video game industry out of context."

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