But to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Ubisoft’s top-selling franchise didn’t really cross the line until it went after whales.
The animal rights group has come out in force against Ubisoft for its inclusion of whaling in the upcoming Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, announced earlier this week. Set in 1713, the pirate-themed game includes the ability to hunt whales on the open sea.
To PETA, that’s simply not fair game.
"Whaling -- that is, shooting whales with harpoons and leaving them to struggle for an hour or more before they die or are hacked apart while they are still alive -- may seem like something out of the history books, but this bloody industry still goes on today in the face of international condemnation, and it’s disgraceful for any game to glorify it,” the organization said in a statement. “PETA encourages video game companies to create games that celebrate animals -- not games that promote hurting and killing them."
Though whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission several decades ago, the practice is still common in Japan, where authorities insist it contains both cultural and scientific value. It remains a bone of contention between between environmental activists and the Japanese whaling industry, often leading to violent clashes.
To Ubisoft, however, the presence of whaling in Black Flag is simply reflective of the time in which their game is set, when hunting whales for meat and oil was commonplace.
"History is our playground in Assassin’s Creed,” the company told Gamesbeat. “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a work of fiction that depicts the real events during the Golden Era of Pirates. We do not condone illegal whaling, just as we don’t condone a pirate lifestyle of poor hygiene, plundering, hijacking ships, and over-the-legal-limit drunken debauchery."
It’s hardly the first time PETA has taken aim at a game’s portrayal of an animal. Late last year the organization went after Nintendo for "promoting" animal abuse with its Pokemon franchise, while in 2011 they dinged Mario’s use of a fur suit in Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS.
Ultimately the organization would like to see whaling removed from Assassin’s Creed IV.
“It doesn’t take anything away from having [whaling] not be a part of the game, but they insisted on putting it in,” PETA spokesperson Matt Bruce told Polygon. “Unfortunately, it’s glorifying something that’s still happening today and is as cruel and bloody as it was 300 years ago.”
The Assassin's Creed franchise is a big, big deal for Ubisoft. The last game in the series, Assassin's Creed III, recently topped 12 million units shipped since its release in October of 2012, making it the fastest seller in the company's history.
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