Sony’s Censorship Policy
Sony has implemented a set of guidelines for games released on their platform that censors more risqué elements within them. According to an interview with The Wall Street Journal, this was mostly due to them wanting to get in front of, and prevent, any potential backlash from social and global audiences around the world now that streaming games has become a popular standard in gaming. They’ve also stated that they feel the need to protect the children, and these new policies are to ensure unwanted sexual content will be associated with their platform. These more strict policies have affected a wide range of games, from smaller independent ones, to triple A titles.
The largest game to date that has had needed to conform to these new policies was Capcom’s Devil May Cry V. One scene in particular, that was exclusive to the PS4 version’s release, saw long-time series protagonist Trish have her nude butt covered by a purple light.
This has since been patched out, but other versions, such as the Xbox One, did not have to apply this strange form of censorship, especially in an M-rated game. Kenichirō Takaki left Marvelous due to these changes, because of how severely his games were being censored. The Senran Kagura series, from Kenichirō Takaki, is known to be heavy with sexualized content and fan service and is responsible for exactly the type of content Sony wants no part of. One such element of these games is their Intimacy Mode, which sees players interact with the bodies of these young-looking digital girls.
This new change in policy has gamers divided. On one hand, you have long-time fans of these series, such as Senran Kagura enthusiasts, upset that their games are being censored and staples of their franchises are being removed or are being cancelled in the west. Others are glad that these changes are coming into effect because they do not agree with these modes to begin with. Nintendo, who has long been viewed as the family-friendly platform, allows these games to release without censorship as long as they can receive a rating from that region’s national rating board, and prefers parents take charge of shielding children from content they may, or may not, be ready for.
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet is another game to fall victim to the new policy changes. There is a mechanic present in the game, with exception to its PlayStation 4 release, that the bikinis will explode to reveal more of the female characters’ skin. Not even the downloadable clothing options on PS4 will retain the mechanic, despite being paid for.
Then there are games like Omega Labyrinth Z that was banned from releasing in the West, despite already receiving a rating from the ESRB because of Sony’s new policy changes. Initial reports were that the title was cancelled because of quality assurance failure, but that turned out to be false with the game already available in Japan and successfully getting an M rating.
There are countless other examples of this policy’s effect, but one interesting aspect of this policy is that it doesn’t seem to pertain to violence, which it should, given the company’s reasoning revolving around protecting children. Mortal Kombat 11 was able to successfully release on Sony’s platforms with no edits or forms of censorship whatsoever, despite being one of the most gruesome entries in the series and violent games to launch to date. With the leniency towards violence and the strong push to censor sexual content, one has to wonder if there is perhaps a deeper meaning on why Sony has decided to pursue this route.
Whatever the case may be, Sony is treading a dangerous path for both content creators and consumers. We have bodies in place to ensure games get the correct rating and that more sinister content is not released to those who should not view it. Sony, going above and beyond the sole purpose of these companies, may come across as a power-hungry entity throwing its weight around and deciding what can or can’t be on their platform, regardless of said game successfully gaining an acceptable rating.
Many see games as art and would rather no one involve themselves in the vision these developers have for their game. If the game’s rating is acceptable and approved by that national body, it should release. Nintendo’s approach to allowing consumers to vote with their wallets, and for the ratings of these games to prevent them from falling into hands that are not maturely ready, seems to be the more consumer-friendly route to take.