The practice of putting sexy women on the box art and in advertisements for video games without her actually appearing in the game, or only appearing in a very minor, forgettable role that doesn't warrant such front-and-center visibility. Sex Sells, logic be damned. It can be seen as especially odd if the game features several significant female characters who could have been used instead, but it doesn't really matter who the girl is. She is there only to attract the Male Gaze, due to the assumption that most gamers are (heterosexual) men. Once he sees what the game is about and decides whether or not to buy it, her job is done.
This trope is a recurring feature of Clickbait Gags, specifically when mocking the trend to put attractive women in YouTube thumbnails. Contrast Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer, as movies tend to have the exact opposite problem. See also Wolverine Publicity.
For ladies who do appear in the game, go to Third-Person Seductress.
Has nothing to do with characters who were Dummied Out.
- This trope goes all the way back to the very beginning of commercial video games: The promotional flyer for 1971's Computer Space features the arcade cabinet being presented by by a lady in a lacy, partially translucent dress◊.
- U.S. Gold produced an infamous advertisement for Psycho Pigs UXB, with a nearly-nude model spread over a centerfold, holding up a very small box of the game. The box art, while misleadingly hardcore, depicted the only two kinds of things that actually appear in the game: a pig and a bomb.
- Rise of Mythos, a game advertised on this very Wiki, combines this trope with unintentional comedy by using images lifted from another game — namely, KanColle. Even if you don't know that the young woman in the ad is the Moe Personification of a Japanese WWII battleship, you might find yourself asking why a teen girl in a Sailor Fuku is being used to advertise a medieval fantasy-based gamenote .
- The trailer seen here is for a game called War 1937, which at first glance, seems like some thrilling video game with hot babes fighting tanks and using Powered Armor, even giving what seems to be a tragic backstory for one of the heroines. Thing is, it's a card game designed for use with the Android, so pretty much everything in the trailer takes a lot of liberties.
- Blake Stone: Planet Strike was Apogee's first retail title, and their publisher, Formgen, wanted a girl on the cover to attract eyes. The actual game has no ladies to save. Read about it here.
- Forsaken was a Descent clone featuring more or less nothing but spaceships flying around and shooting each other. Neither the box cover nor the ads, however, had spaceships of any sort. Instead, it was a shot of a gray desert with an expressionless redhead with a heart-shaped tattoo on her cheek. If she was the pilot of any of these spaceships, she certainly didn't look it.
- Parodied in an ad for AdventureQuest Worlds. The ad starts off showing the silhouette of a brave knight striking a heroic pose. The slogan "Slay free" then pops up. The knight is then shown in full, revealing that he is only wearing underwear. He drops to cover himself, and the words "Quest indiscreetly" appear, parodying Evony's tag. To drive the point home, a certainly-far-more-armored-than-normal-for-this-trope-but-still-rather-Chainmail Bikini'd woman pops out from the surrounding trees with the speech bubble, "Pants, my lord?"
- An ad for a trading card game called Ancient Summoner shows a scantily-clad anime girl with the slogan "Wanna get tough? Then let's play rough with her to fight against the evils!" Oddly reminiscent of Wartune's "Love can dispel darkness! Make love against the darkness with her now!" slogan...
- Promotional material for Big Bang Empire refers to as a triple-X game and is covered in topless women. Truthfully, if you play on an adult website, you're going to get a few brief topless scenes, and on Facebook it's completely free of nudity.
- In both EverQuest and EverQuest II with Firiona Vie and Antonia Bayle respectively.
- Firiona Vie was featured on the front of the boxart for most of EQ's expansions until they switched over to download only expansions. Many players questioned who she and the other characters who always appeared on the boxes. Eventually they brought these characters in as part of a storyline in the game. They were almost always played by a Game Master, so you had to be at the event to see them, but they were eventually fleshed out as background characters who were important to the overall storylines that the game developed.
- Antonia Bayle is the reigning queen of Qeynos, whose backstory and involvement in the game was pretty prominent at the start of the game. Players who betrayed Qeynos in order to defect to Freeport were confronted by Antonia herself before they got kicked out of the city. Changes to the game would eventually remove this special one-time encounter. She would eventually return as part of various storylines and quests, giving orders for the player to investigate directly before sending them off on their mission.
- Firiona and this trope in general were parodied in The Noob. Link.
- The "recruitment posters" for Final Fantasy XIV's Grand Companies caused a small bit of confusion on some forums because that one poster◊ (presumably a parody of Liberty Leading the People) kept being mistaken for a depiction of the Company's commander, Kan-E-Senna, and people were upset that "wasn't showing up in the game." Kan-E-Senna actually resembles a young teenager, and is a different person from the woman in the poster. Fun fact: the woman on the poster is actually one of the twelve gods of Eorzea, Nophica.
- Ads for Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire feature Luna (later a live-action model dressed as a Stripperific version of Luna) as the attractive female character of the game, but in the game, the characters are simply attached to menus and text boxes explaining the basic game mechanics, with no further plot to speak of.
- League of Angels zigzags this trope. On the one hand, it uses blatant Fanservice (Panty Shots, Shower Scenes, etc.) to advertise for a browser-based MMO. On the other hand, most of these ladies are actually in the game (aside from some gratuitous Jiggle Physics added into the character portraits for the ads.) It is more like a case of Never Trust a Trailer; the lovely girls are in the game, it just lacks the gratuitous Fanservice the ads would suggest. Old adverts, however, play the trope entirely straight by using pictures of girls from other games.
- Zig-zagged in the case of RuneScape. NPC heroine Linza the Blacksmith was intended to appear in-game as a fellow adventurer like the player, complete with her own quest series, but all of her quests ended up in Development Hell, so for years the she only ever appeared in advertisements and the odd cameo, flaunting her cleavage and bare arms. In May 2016 the quest "Kindred Spirits" was finally green-lit to star Linza... and was advertised as a quest about the Barrows Brothers instead.
- While the action MMORPG game Scarlet Blade actually does have an Improbably Female Cast, the ads for it seemed to firmly believe that Sex Sells, with a slogan being "NSFW: Not Safe For Wimps".
- Star Trek Online:
- Some of the promo art features a young female Vulcan◊ wearing a Starfleet-styled Custom Uniform of Sexy with plentiful cleavage. On the other hand, when the Expansion Pack Legacy of Romulus was dropped, another Romulan showed up in the promo wallpapers, dubbed "So'Hott" by the players. According to Word of God this is meant to be Commander Tiaru Jarok, the captain of the Romulan Republic flagship RRW Lleiset (the Romulan counterpart to the Enterprise). She becomes a Recurrer starting with the mission "Sphere of Influence" but wasn't in the game originally.
- Promo art for the second expansion Delta Rising played this straight again. This wallpaper features a hot female Romulan in a Spy Catsuit, a hot blonde Liberated Borg Starfleet officer in tactical greys, and a big, burly Klingon with a bat'leth. Though the Romulan at least bears some resemblance to Commander Mena, the Romulan mission giver for much of DR's storyline.
- Browser-based game Blood and Jade features ads that blatantly use video footage from other games, such as Dead or Alive: Xtreme 2 — not even attempting to hide or alter Kasumi, Hitomi, or Tina in the advertisements. A 3D advertisement for the game showcases Yukari and Ran dancing around in swimsuits, which was taken from this fan made MMD music video set to a J-Pop song. On top of that, their regular ads also feature scanty clad women who actually exist in the game and act as party members — calling into question why they felt the need to rip off other sources in the first place.
- An ad for a game called Call of Roma features a scantily clad woman and advertising that you are "one click away from a Roman orgy." It's a turn based strategy game. Later, they replaced "orgy" with "empire"... briefly. Apparently it's a tradition they established when they called their game Caesary.
- The online ads for Evony featured women ranging from innocent-looking girls to porn stars, beckoning "my Lord" to play the game. It's worth noting that Evony is not an RPG but a strategy game, meaning you don't see anyone up close, let alone some bimbo in anachronistic lingerie. They even started the trend of stealing licensed characters from other games — such as Queen Antonia, featured mascot of EverQuest II — which soon spread. Evony's ad campaign's slow degeneration from actual relevant ads to "Boobies! (oh, and play our game)" has become a running joke on game-related sites.
- Forge of Empires is another one using explicit but untrue claims of pornographic content. One ad on a torrent website touts the "World's First Online Sex Game" and shows blatantly pornographic images that aren't in the game at all. A few Forge of Empires ads show and promise gay porn instead, making them a rare male example.
- Game of War: Fire Age seems to have taken this to the next level, by buying television ad space (In at least 3 countries, one even a different language) to spam a commercial filled with troops led by model and actress Kate Upton, baring a lot of cleavage. She does at least appear in-game, in the form of the tutorial goddess.
- Naava Daishan was one of the most prominent characters in the promotional materials for the first Kohan game, appearing in the order info in the demo, and all over the website. While she's available in the game, her role in the story before the second game (where she's the main character) is zero.
- SF strategy MMO Lacuna Expanse used a similar advert◊, allegedly as a tribute to Evony. More recently we also got this one this one, and this one, which are at least vaguely relevant to the game and considerably more tasteful.
- The ads for Machines at War 3 have both female and male soldiers - but while the dudes are tough marine types wearing military camo gear and angry faces (and at least one decidedly unsexy officer-type person with suitably decorated uniform), the girls are in scuba gear and skintight "tactical" suits with implausible cleavages and sexy come-here-you faces (with lipstick, natch). Notably, this being a top-down RTS with 2D graphics, no soldier is actually visible in great detail during the game.
- A particularly egregious case with the Spellforce series. Even with the female characters who do appear in the game, their choice of clothing doesn't reflect the mostly modest clothing and armour choices worn by the character, their party and NPC's.
- Tynon reused the old "Play now, my lord! Free forever!" slogan from Evony. If you thought the two titles looked similar, you'd be right, since the game is in fact made by Evony's developers.
- Wartune takes this even further by outright claiming to be a pornographic game. It has scantily clad ladies in every single one of its ads, uses slogans like "Your body is my party... Let's get it started!", and later added that they've apparently been rated "Adults Only" by the ESRB, and is for "Male Gamers Only". A brief search of the ESRB website shows that no such rating has been issued. (This actually got the company in legal trouble, since the ESRB holds a trademark on their ratings icons so companies can't use them to lie about the contents of their games - exactly what Wartune was using them for.) In fact, there's no real nudity in this game at all, but you'd never know that from the blatantly pornographic ads trying to sell it.
- Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura:
- The cover of is dominated by the tattooed head of a female elf. None of the player portraits for elves or half-elves look like that, nor does any prominent elven npcs. There are also a spellslinging mage and dwarf with a flamethrower included, neither notable characters but far more awesome.
- The game has an alternate brighter cover with Raven, whom you do meet, prominently displayed. The unidentified female elf in the commercial cover is by that logic most likely Min'Gorad, the leader of the Dark Elves, who does not have a character portrait in-game.
- Blade of Queen by Carolgames features ads with both official art and fan art of Kasumi from Dead or Alive, and a selection of random anime characters, none of which appear in the game.
- Dragonfable has, or at least had, Fae, a cat girl who would appear in their ads. She had only appeared in the beta test of the game, and vanished until she finally showed up in one quest chain, years later.
- In Drakensang there are four characters pictured on the cover (not counting the dragon): three of them (the knight Traldar, Forgrimm the dwarf and Gwendala the Elf) are met in-game as party members, but the scantly dressed buxom wizard on the right isn't. She may be the player character, though there aren't female mages with such a design.
- The Conan Hyborian Age mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim adds new Conan the Barbarian (1982)-themed loading screens to the game, among other thingsnote , one of them being a picture of a scantily-clad Valeria; said loading screen is also one of the official illustrations showed in the Skyrim Nexus mod's page. It's Valeria only appearance in the game (her outfit is an actual armor form the mod, though).
- Ever heard of Knightshift? Known in the states as Once Upon A Knight? No? Well, two out of the six official wallpapers at http://www.knightshift.com/eng/index_eng.htm prominently feature a bikinified magic babe... who isn't in the game. Another features an alt design for the Amazon Sorceress, which is noticeably kinkier than the in-game counterpart.... maybe if they had better marketing than "Hot Babe Who's Not in the Game Wallpapers" there might have been a sequel?
- The front box art of Might and Magic VII: For Blood and Honor displays an adventuring party that includes a warrior woman in a miniskirt and plate mail halter top, a bare chested male barbarian type hero, and a female sorcerer in clingy robes. None of these outfits exist in the game — only leather, chain and plate armor exists, and all of it covers the entire chest. Even unarmored characters by default wear a cloth jerkin.
- The Attract Mode video for Vagrant Story features an exotic Belly Dancer, intercut with footage of the protagonist training. The dancer is not related to the characters or themes of the game in any way (and her Power Tattoo would have significant plot implications if she did appear).
- The cover girls for the Grand Theft Auto games.
- There are some who do appear in their respective games (Misty in Grand Theft Auto III, Joni in The Ballad of Gay Tony and Ling Shan in Chinatown Wars), but their roles are so small that they effectively still count. They're always odd choices, since every GTA includes one or two significant female characters who could have been used instead.
- In Grand Theft Auto V people are divided on whether the blonde bikini girl featured in much of the advertising is supposed to be the minor character of Tracey De Santa or whether she is this trope.
- One piece of concept art for L.A. Noire titled “Fallen Starlet” features the corpse of a glamorous young woman behind the wheel of a car. Despite there being no version of her in the actual game, she eventually made it onto the cover when the game was ported to PS4 and Xbox One.
- Red Dead Redemption, with a prostitute on the instruction manual. Fans attempted to avert this trope with the Epileptic Tree that she's the protagonist's wife during her prostitute days, but this was Jossed.
- This image of Saya Kho◊ appears on the back of the X3: Gold Edition box. This being a space simulator series with a major economics management component, she appears from the neck up over comms in X3: Reunion and not at all in X3: Terran Conflict. And she's in the opening cinematic of X3: Albion Prelude for all of ten seconds before dying in the massive explosion she set off. Strangely, X: Rebirth's cover art doesn't feature Yisha, the ship's copilot, despite being with you for the entire game in a Latex Space Suit.
- Kelly Brook was used to advertise Deathtrap Dungeon whilst wearing an overly-sexualized bondagey outfit. Not only did this have nothing to do with the actual game, the game itself was also an In Name Only version of a Fighting Fantasy book Deathtrap Dungeon.
- Namco's Namco Sports series used to feature a young lady named Namko playing the sports the games were about.
- Bleach has its fair share of sexy women, though the manga compilations that have the most provocative covers usually contain the least amount of fanservice. Volume 17◊ is the biggest offender, featuring Yoruichi Shihoin wearing spray-on pants, even though she's nowhere to be found in this volume.
- The chapter title pages for Gantz very often feature a hot girl in various states of undress. It's pretty common for her to be absent from the actual chapter, though. In one chapter, the title page turned out to be the image on a poster that's barely seen in the actual chapter. This tendency stopped in later chapters though.
- The cover art for Hentai Prince and the Stony Cat depicts two blushing, bikini-clad catgirls snuggling suggestively. Though the two girls in question do appear in the anime, the scene depicted never happens, neither of them is a Cat Girl outside of fantasy sequences (and never both at once), and they are not in a sexual relationship (though one of them might like to be). Also, the younger of the two girls is incapable of expressing her emotions due to her wish, and as such shouldn't be able to blush.
- Seitokai Yakuindomo has a non-video game example: There's a pink-haired girl the entirety of end credits of the show's first season is devoted to, even though she plays no part in the series proper at all. She finally gets a cameo in the first OVA, getting a seconds-long, one-line appearance that title drops the ED song.
- All the issues of Marville, except for the first, has an almost nude woman on the cover, who is never seen in the actual story. (though an alternate for the first cover◊, which was reused in the paperback, at least could be one of the main characters, Mickey, given she starts the series as a taxi driver.)
- Wonder Woman (2011): Cheetah and Artemis are depicted on the variant cover for issue 42, despite neither of them being in the issue and Artemis not even existing in this continuity.
- The Steven Spielberg film A.I.: Artificial Intelligence features a live-action movie version of this trope. Much of the film's promotional material featured Ashley Scott's sexy robotic hooker, yet in the final film Scott appears for less than 3 seconds which is just enough time to spout her single line of dialogue.
- The second trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron featured a mysterious dark-skinned woman disrobing in a cave. Fan theories abounded as to who she might be (with popular theories being Princess Shuri, Hela and even Death), but the character ended up getting cut from the actual movie.
- The poster for Camp Nowhere (as seen on that page) advertises a bunch of buxom, scantily clad supermodels as a part of the cast, but they're nowhere to be found in the movie itself. Kind of an odd case since it's ostensibly a junior high kids' movie.
- Dead End Drive-In has a downplayed example. Publicity for the film, and articles or book entries about it, will often have a picture of a woman who is topless other than a metal bra with huge cow horns over her breasts. Although she occasionally appears in the film, she's a background extra who is never even the main focus of a shot.
- Possibly the most egregious example might be the cover of the direct-to-video horror film ''Demon Possessed''. Sorry, guys, she's not even in this film.
- The original US poster for Ikiru focuses on a stripper who is only briefly seen in the film itself.
- The poster for the US release of Infernal Affairs features a gun wielding woman in blue, but none of the female characters in the movie look anything like her.
- The teaser for Bored of the Rings talks of Frito's seduction by a "voluptuous elf maiden" who does not appear in the book at all. This is really a legitimate parody of the trope, or at least of the sex-sells mindset in general, though -— after all, the whole book is a parody.
- Subverted In-Universe in Piers Anthony's Xanth novel Demons Don't Dream — Dug's friend gives him a game, and Dug figures that the attractive lady on the front (Nada Naga) is just put on there to sell the game to poor sops who think she'll be in it. Turns out she is, in fact, actually in it, as the character who introduces the player to the game and as one of the possible companion characters.
- Lampshaded In-Universe in Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, where Greg says there aren't even any women in the book he's reading despite the cover begging to differ. He's sure that the guy who made the cover has never read the book.
Live Action TV
- The Magicians: The first season's promo ads featured either Quentin (who was one of the main characters), or a random college girl floating on her back (who, needless to say, was not).
- This 1982 promo for Cheers features an attractive woman saying how the show is "the brightest, freshest new comedy of the season" for NBC, but she's not a character on the show, and the ad doesn't even say what the show's about.
- There must be any number of album covers featuring quite often attractive females on the front... but the artists are very much male. This became especially common for male artists from the 70's to the 90's when Sex Sells was at its heyday. Lady Not-Appearing-On-This-Record, anyone?
- Unusually, Celtic Woman features an unknown red-haired model on their album covers. The unusual part of this is that all the group's members are very attractive but none of them are featured on the cover. Pictures of the group have since been added to their concert DVDs and the back cover of the albums.
- OutKast's first five albums (including the Greatest Hits compilation) featured nude portraits of women printed on the cd's, painted by bandmember Andre3000.
- Technotronic's Pump Up the Jam was credited to "Technotronic featuring Felly" — Felly was actually the model on the front of the record and fake frontwoman for the act, whilst the actual vocals were done by the (also female) rapper Ya Kid K.
- This happens in the staid world of classical music too: one edition of the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz has a cover depicting a strikingly attractive naked woman who occupies center-stage on the 12" sleeve. This despite the fact that the five movements of SF depict the protagonist's descent into depression, despair and mental illness: while the piece was inspired by unrequited love on the part of the composer, nothing in it is to do with sex and nudity. It is the absence of the object of love that drives the music. She's here.
- Game Recordings, who released music by artists featured on the soundtrack of Grand Theft Auto III, were notorious for the "Game Girls" on the covers of their singles — porn stars, because the label CFO also had a business making softcore pornography under the imprint "Hip Hop Honeys". A famous example of one of these is "Nuttin' To Do/Scary Movies" by Bad Meets Evil (a duo consisting of Eminem and Royce da 5'9"), which features two porn stars on the cover despite the nasal, incredibly unsexy Horrorcore within.
- Avalanche Press, who usually publish board wargames, also produced a run of d20 System roleplaying game supplements in the early 2000s, mostly covering historical and historical-mythic subjects. These were sometimes competently written and researched, but the covers were almost all quite ludicrously cheesecakey, featuring voluptuous women barely dressed in stripperific parodies of something from the relevant period.
- The cover of Rifts World Book 12: Psyscape focuses on a woman decapitating a robot; the closest match in the book is a description Erin Tarn has of a dream. Most of the book is Nxla, Psi-Cola, powers, monsters and gear. The cover girl isn't even statted. Not a single NPC is.
- Inverted with this Nerf NOW!! comic, which involves a company disguising an eroge as a strategy game.
- In The Noob when the expansion set for Clichequest was coming out, the first version of the box art featured the squid-lobster creatures prominently present in the actual game. The CEO of the game company thought the box art was the reason for the expansion's poor sales, so had it replaced with a closeup of a curvy lady. When the expansion still sold poorly the lady's bust was exaggerated further until eventually the final iteration of the box's front was nothing but a 3D pair of breasts protruding from it.
- The Season 1 DVD of Archer features a nameless scantily clad blonde woman in the center. Subverted as season 2 introduces Katya Kazanova, who bears a striking resemblance to her.