Sometimes the smallest detail can cause a big headache.
Developers of the PlayStation 3 title "The Last of Us" are scrambling to patch the title upon learning that a pair of phone numbers that appear on a sign in the game connect people to actual sex hotlines.
The numbers, which were first discovered by a reader of game enthusiast site Kotaku, were an accidental inclusion, says the developer. But experts say it's still a PR stumble that could be embarrassing for Sony.
"That was an artist's mistake," the game's creative director Neil Druckmann told Kotaku. "We're now working to take it out. It was just an honest mistake."
A Sony spokesperson said: "We included some random phone numbers in the game starting with 555, which is a common practice in North American television shows, films and video games, as they are fictitious numbers. It has come to light that for certain 555 phone numbers that begin with an 800 area code, the same does not apply, so a patch was created to address this issue. The patch was deployed today in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia, and will be deployed shortly in Japan."
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One of the two sex phone lines is now, seemingly, out of order, but as of press time the other one was still working.
To be sure, the "Last of Us" is an M-rated game, which means it's recommended for ages 17 and higher. But because some parents and children ignore the game ratings systems—and because sex is such a hot-button issue for some parents groups—analysts say Sony might have some push back.
"It's going to be a negative for Sony but not a strong negative," says Billy Pidgeon, an independent market research analyst. "I guess some troublemakers could try to run with it, but anyone playing that game should be old enough to go ahead and call those numbers."
The irony of a sexual tie to The Last of Us is that the game features one of the strongest female protagonists in recent gaming history. While Ellie, the 14-year old players must escort across a post-apocalyptic plague-infected world, could easily have been a damsel in distress character, she is very well developed emotionally. Naughty Dog even fought to keep her on the game's cover despite requests to downplay her.