After protesting a launch party, UNICO National is claiming victory in their campaign against the portrayal of Italian Americans in 2K Games’ Mafia II. "I have no doubt our efforts resulted in the Mafia II Launch Party, at the 92nd Street Y's Tribeca Center, being a dismal failure," said Andre' DiMino, chief media executive for UNICO and spokesman for the group that represents Italian Americans.
DiMino had originally demanded that parent company Take-Two "halt release of the game and cleanse it of all references to Italians and Italian-Americans”, claiming that the game “directly, blatantly and unfairly discriminates and demeans one group to the exclusion of all others."
However, last week DiMino set his sights on the New York launch party event, pressuring the event’s host, the 92nd Street Y, to cancel the event as inappropriate for a well-known not-for-profit institution.
"When we first heard about this marketing event only recently, we went into action, using our resolve to challenge an event whose purpose was to mock the Italian American community by promoting the new video game Mafia II," said DiMino.
DiMino claims both Take-Two and the 92nd Street Y "became very hesitant to heavily promote ethnic bashing in this very public way", citing a lack of media coverage as proof that both parties "pulled back" on promoting the launch event. He called this "only one small, satisfying victory" in what he described as a long campaign on behalf of Italian Americans opposed to Mafia II.
"I believe," he continued, "the combined result of our activities was that, without acknowledging our efforts, both Take-Two and the 92nd Street Y became very hesitant to heavily promote ethnic bashing in this very public way. The lack of media coverage for the launch party is another indicator that they pulled back on promoting this event."
Mr. DiMino concluded, "For us, this is one small, satisfying victory in a much longer, more sophisticated campaign within the Italian American community opposed to Mafia II specifically, and the continued misrepresentation of the Italian American community, generally. Take-Two and its major investors, and the entertainment industry in general, will be hearing further and forcefully from us."
Take-Two boss Strauss Zelnick, responded publicly to UNICO’s previous claims: "We balance our right to free expression with what we believe is a thoughtful and responsible approach to creating and marketing our products… We aim to distinguish creative and compelling story telling that advances artistic expression from subject matter that gratuitously exploits or glorifies violence or stereotypes."
Mafia II thus far has not seen an especially strong launch, a development due more likely to its critical reception than to the actions of a group. The title received a "mixed or average" Metacritic score of 74, and Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter recently pointed out that "consumer interest appears to be waning, as the game’s position has dropped in many best-seller lists in its first week." The analyst and several of his colleagues have suggested the game is unlikely to turn a profit for its publisher.