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Sony's Censorship is Neither Rational Nor Legitimate

Sony's Censorship is Neither Rational Nor Legitimate - Article

by Thomas Froehlicher , posted on 25 May 2019 / 5,505 Views

When I heard that Sony had banned PQube from publishing Omega Labyrinth Z in the West, I sincerely hoped that it would be an isolated case. However, that hope quickly faded. My alert levels rose further when Marvelous announced that it had to delay Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal to comply with Sony's new censorship policies. Senran Kagura being much bigger than Omega Labyrinth saleswise, it quickly became clear that the issue was of significant importance.

omega labyrinth life PS4

Lately, the situation has further worsened, with Mary Skelter Nigtmares 2 being a Switch exclusive in the West, and D3 Publisher changing Omega Labyrinth Life on PS4 into a heavily censored "Labyrinth Life". Now that Sony has begun to crack down on small and big Japanese publishers alike, concerns are being raised all over the world. Enough is enough. The consequences of these policies are only just starting to be felt, with sales weakening and the shift to smartphone gaming being accelerated. Sony recently provided details to the Wall Street Journal about its new policies, and I think it's time to separate the right from the wrong.

There aren't many reasons why Sony would risk crossing with its very own fanbase. One is legal concerns, and in actual fact games were already being banned in some countries well before Sony ever stepped in. In 2016, Valkyrie Drive Bhikkhuni couldn't be marketed in Germany and Australia because the rating agencies there considered that the sexual content in the game wasn't law-abiding.

mary skelter 2 bath

In today's world, where imported games fly to any part of the world, Sony fears legal action, or at least techradar believes this particular reason given to the Wall Street Journal to be valid. But isn't Sony being a little too cautious here? We can't discard the risk that a Japanese-only game featuring sexual depiction of underage (or underage-looking) girls will end up in Western markets and on Western media. In fact, I reviewed Mary Skelter Nightmares 2 on this website, so that definitely happens, but Sony is not to blame. Instead it's the retail outlet, which had no right to sell me a game that had "for Japan only" written on the back, that is to blame.

In such cases Sony absolutely did its job and complied with the rules - it submitted the game to CERO, the Japanese rating board, and then put it on the market after receiving approval. The retailer that sold the game overseas has to face the consequences and charges, if there are to be any. To my knowledge, no online retailer has ceased exporting Japanese games on the basis of  fearing"legal action" following the presence of sexual content in the products they're selling. In fact, some of them have even made it a commercial selling point. A major Asia-based retailer has been campaigning on the topic, pushing fan service-heavy games like Dead or Alive Xtreme 3. This retailer doesn't seem especially afraid, and if you go further up the chain to the second layer of responsibility that would be CERO anyway, not Sony.

senran kagura burst renewal boxart censorship sony

When we're talking about a game localized for the Western market, the issue is even simpler - institutions like PEGI and ESRB are entrusted with the responsibility of deciding whether a game is legal or not. Any complaints must be directed to them, and Sony has no legal responsibility concerning what happens with a game that received the greenlight from state-run authorities. The Senran Kagura series, for example, is PEGI 16 in Europe, which is less restrictive than in Japan where the game is recommended for 17 year olds and up. No one has any problem with this game, except Sony! The company cannot be attacked on legal grounds, because it is shielded by the rating process in every territory.

Now the Wall Street Journal also says that the company also fears "controversies" and references the #MeToo scandal. However, the #MeToo movement was about the sexual harassment of real people, not about fictional characters in a niche genre. It involved major personalities in the entertainment industry, which is far bigger than the visual novel industry, where games only tend to sell a few thousand units worldwide. It's ludicrous to even compare the two. In the worst case scenario, all Sony has to do is disable the share features for sensitive scenes or overly sexual games. That has actually been done before, in Bullet Girls Phantasia when it released on PS4. There, sharing was blocked during the game's kinky interrogation scenes. Of course, some gamers will probably get around such restrictions by using capture cards to show the gameplay anyway, but honestly, how many people is this going to effect?
 
 
What should Sony worry more about: the fact that some litigious individual might stir a controversy because he or she witnessed gameplay that was streamed by one of the precious few gamers who purchase sexualised games, or about PlayStation customers who right now are worried about what will happen to their games in the coming months and just how far these censorship measures will go?
 
Now that a major AAA game like Devil May Cry 5 has been hit by Sony's censorship policies (in a pathetically confusing sequence where the game gets patched in some regions, but then the censorship was reverted in only one), the issue has gone well beyond otaku circles. When French site jeuxvideo.com raises the topic, many in the comments disapprove and wonder if games like CyberPunk 2077 could see some content cut.
 
A new hardware generation is about to begin, and Sony knows more than anyone that brand image is key, but how will censoring games really play out reputationally? The wider public might sympathise, but will gamers? And if Sony gets into a debate about values, shouldn't the company also have a look at Western games? If Sony wants to be a perfectly moral company, it should also crack down on games that include criminal acts. You can't expect to employ double standards and get a free pass.
 
 
It so happens that a Read Dead Redemption 2 streamer has been having fun throwing female characters to alligators, which definitely isn't a noble thing to do, but Sony obviously didn't mind since the company didn't move to censor Rockstar's game. It's almost amazing how ridiculous Sony's position is - it's willing to ban the tiniest aspects of erotica, but is willing to actively endorse and publicise representations of extreme violence. When there's a brutal murder, Sony doesn't leap to censor every game that contains similar murder scenes.
 
I understand the need for regulation. Creators, like all people, can cross the line with their ideas and go against obvious moral standards. But the regulators do exist, and if there are loopholes or permissiveness it's beholden on those regulators to change their guidelines first; there's no reason for the rest of the game industry to do its job instead.
 
Finally, Sony can't just target a minority and pretend it's making the entire world better. Crime and murder are no less serious than the problems brought up by Sony with its crackdown on sexual content. If Sony wants to be a moral champion, it shouldn't tackle one vice and ignore the rest; either enforce policies across all aspects of public morals or keep out of the realm of censorship. Gamers, retailers, developers, and publishers are suffering from a policy born of paranoid dogma. It's not making the situation any better, it's making it worse.

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44 Comments

KLAMarine (on 25 May 2019)

#nocensorship


psychicscubadiver (on 25 May 2019)

Just wanted to point out that this only happened after Sony moved Playstation headquarters to California. The censorship isn't coming from Japan, it's coming from pressure within the company. Specifically from the far left environment in the West Coast tech industry that considers the censored work 'misogynistic' or 'patriarchal'.


FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

People have downvoted you, but you are absolutely correct.


  • +8
RolStoppable (on 25 May 2019)

The most amusing thing about this article is that it doesn't mention Nintendo at all. Given what the situation is, people who seek this type of content would buy the same game uncensored on Switch instead of going for something completely else on smartphones. And outside of Japan, the PC would be a popular option too.


Ganoncrotch (on 28 May 2019)

Aye Nintendo have more balls this generation.... And titties!


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Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

Thanks for covering this. Sony going over the rating boards and randomly banning games or elements makes them a publisher of every game that appears on their systems and not just a platform. As the piece stated this means they approve of everything that can be done in GTA or Mortal Kombat. One issue that I think was overlooked is explaining how the censorship decisions are made. Sony have an internal board that decides whether a game is appropriate or not, which is why the decisions are so inconsistent. Japanese developers have said that there is no solid policy - they simply submit the game and hope for the best, which is why developers have started to remove even the slightest hints of sexuality like for example Athena's outfit on SNK 40th anniversary collection on the PS4 cover, but the the Switch one. The worst part of it all? It has to be done in English and sent to the California HQ, which further complicates things for Japanese developers. Due to this censorship madness I'm completely boycotting Sony and I recently got a Switch to get uncensored titles.


FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

People, let me explain why Sony's censorship is bad, in my opinion. If they can censor something as harmless as girls' visible legs or game logos that look like boobs, it's obvious that they would not be beyond doing something like going to a horror game studio and saying "your game is too scary, tone it down". I'm just worried that this will spread from boobs to other things. How could you possibly say that it won't? If I could get a 100% certain answer that no, it never will, then I wouldn't care about this as much.


Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

To me it doesn't matter what content is censored. It's a matter of principle. Violence or sex - it all should be allowed. This is why we got the rating boards. Same with movies and books. This type of wrongthink censoring is unacceptable.


  • +1
COKTOE (on 26 May 2019)

Great article. Even my beloved Neptunia games will be hit by this new Sony BS. It's actually something I've thought about even more since I recently started 4 Goddesses Online, and it sometimes casts a pall over the experience, knowing that I'll eventually have to switch platforms to enjoy new games in the series ( and other series as well ) in an uncompromised form.


Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

The Switch version of Super Neptunia will not be censored and thus I'll be getting this version.


  • +2
LivingMetal (on 27 May 2019)

The best way to start a dialogue is to listen, but that doesn't mean every dialogue is fruitful. When you listen and pander to every single group, you're left with nothing. Moral of story: Censorship DOESN'T WORK!


Bandorr (on 25 May 2019)

You don't mention that Xbox/PC/PS4 all censored a different issue. you didn't mention that the "butt glare" wasn't censored in Japan. Or that for some reason it is still "censored" in europe. Why would they all censor one thing? but not another? Why in the West and Europe but not Japan? Why fix it in the west but not Europe? How do we know this is censorship vs Capcoms artistic visions? There are many questions that you don't cover at all.


Bandorr (on 25 May 2019)

You claim Sony banned Omega Labyrinth from coming to the US - but you don't mention that the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland refused to even give that game a classification. IT was the first game in 10 years to be banned from the UK. How can you blame this on Sony when five COUNTRIES actually didn't even want the game imported?


Hamlock (on 25 May 2019)

The game was given a PEGI 18 rating. It was refused a PHYSICAL launch by the VSC, but a digital release was still possible.
Then Sony stepped in and banned it from release entirely.
https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-06-25-playstation-blocks-launch-of-adult-anime-game-omega-labyrinth-z


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Oneeee-Chan!!! (on 25 May 2019)

You are right.
Writers should know about that.


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Bandorr (on 25 May 2019)

"There is a constant theme of sexual innuendo and activity throughout the game that suggests behaviour likely to normalise sexual activity towards children"

Reading that I have to wonder how it even got a rating in the first place. I'm guessing based on "This refusal is relevant to physical product only (disc, cartridge, etc.) Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act (1984)" that perhaps the VRA can only apply to physical property.


  • 0
Megiddo (on 25 May 2019)

I was waiting for this article to discuss rationality and legitimacy of censorship, as the title indicates, but it never got there. Disappointing. Especially when the writer in the last paragraph went the whole 'if you can't fix everything then don't bother trying to fix anything' approach. It's a terrible and nonsensical argument and I would I have expected better from writers on this website.


ryuzaki57 (on 25 May 2019)

As expressed in the title, this article is about Sony's current policy and not censorship in general, which would be a whole different debate.


  • +7
Lafiel (on 25 May 2019)

These stupid "soft-porn" scenes usually have no importance to the story or relationships at all, so I don't mind them to be gone or changed. In regards to fapping they do nothing for me, I need more stimulation than that and there are tons of better sources for fap-material. Real romance and intimacy scenes is imho something games deperately needs to include and improve upon, fan-service is the opposite of that.


FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

"I don't care about it so it's okay to be censored"

Can I ask, how old are you? Be honest.


  • +8

Comments below voting threshold

BraLoD (on 25 May 2019)

DMCV blocking lights are present in every platform. Sony has only been acting on anime stuff afaik, where there is some real shit going on. Sony should let rating companies do their job and stop meddling (unless they still have to legally respond for allowing stuff like that, if so they can do what is better for their company) but let's stop to overblown stuff, shall we.


Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

The specific lights on Trish were only present on the PlayStation version and still are in Europe.


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BraLoD (on 26 May 2019)

The exact same lights are present on another scene on any region and platform of the game. This specific scene was even patched in US not to have it.
If it still have that on Europe that's too bad, but Capcom made it, they made the game, they created the fuction and it is present in every single copy of the game, Sony did not demand censorship, that was a game design choice created for the game.
I have an European copy of 3D Dot Game Heroes on PS3 that has not the patch for trophy requirements that the USA version does. What that have to do with Sony? Nothihg. Developers/Publishers are the ones that are responsible for patching something in their games.
Blame Sony for stuff Sony do.


  • -2
Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

Yes, Capcom made the changes, but given how it's ONLY on the PS4 version it's quite obvious that Sony requested it. And yes - the game is still extra censored in Europe. Do you have any other excuses to defend this?


  • +2
Hiku (on 26 May 2019)

When it was revealed that the light was removed through a patch, it suggested that there either was some miscommunication originally that caused it to be implemented in the first place, or that they decided to remove it after receiving criticism. But if it's the latter then you'd think they would remove it from the EU version as well. I don't know if there's been an update on that development, but I'd like to know what the exact cause is.


  • 0
BraLoD (on 26 May 2019)

I'm not defending Sony, maybe you should read my post, Zenos.
As I said Sony should let censorship for rating companies to deal with if there are no legal issues for them, they should not meddle with it unless it's necessary, because if that is the case, as in Sony is getting to legally respond for stuff like this being present on games on their platforms they have every right to take action. Which doesn't seems like is the case as other platforms are still allowing such games.
You can blame them as much as you like, go ahead, but blame them for things they have done.


  • -2
Zenos (on 26 May 2019)

@BraLoD I read your post and you are giving them a pass for this censorship for some bizarre reason. As I said above - if it wasn't Sony then why was the PS4 version the only one that censored that specific scene and that is still currently censored in Europe?


  • +2
Tridrakious (on 25 May 2019)

Oh know, all these people fighting to see 10 year old with double D boobies...SAD


  • -10
FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

If they removed all the blood from Mortal Kombat and I said "all these people fighting to see people murdered in bloody ways...SAD"

What would you say?


  • +7
FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

Forgot to ask, where do you see 10 year olds? Sounds like you are projecting your fantasies on these fictional 18+ year olds.


  • +4
KLAMarine (on 25 May 2019)

Who's 10 and how do we know they're 10?


  • +8
Oneeee-Chan!!! (on 25 May 2019)

To writer. Censorsip Censorsip Censorsip. How many times you gotta say the same stuff.


  • -10
super_etecoon (on 25 May 2019)

Don't know what you're all missing, but if it's anything like the images in this article I don't care about your feelings or the game.


  • -11
FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

Would you say the same if Mortal Kombat had all its blood removed?


  • +9
super_etecoon (on 25 May 2019)

Wouldn't care in the slightest, to be honest. I don't get any enjoyment from blood letting in general, game or real life.


  • 0
FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

"Censorship is okay if I don't care about it"

Such a childish response.


  • +9
super_etecoon (on 25 May 2019)

I don't know, sir. What you're requesting and making a beef over is creepy at best. I'm all for the spread of good ideas and allowing people to express themselves, but this odd porn fetish thing going on is crossing a pretty severe line. I won't win a war with you guys, but I also don't care if you lose.


  • -1
FelixArgyle (on 25 May 2019)

"Odd porn fetish"

You can apply that to anything. "Odd shooting people fetish". "Odd killing people in games fetish".

The difference is that being attracted to females is completely normal and harmless, but violence, etc. is not. But for some reason in fiction that's reversed. Violence is seen as normal and sexual things are not.


  • 0
super_etecoon (on 25 May 2019)

Oh, I certainly would apply that to other things, let me tell you. Haha. Female attraction to, as another poster commented, "10 year olds with DD boobs" is quite a different animal. If you can't see the harm this creates, then it doesn't matter anyway. Bottomline, I'm sure you can find the kink you're looking for on Steam or Epic games or a random pirate store. Sony absolutely gets to choose what goes on their platform and you absolutely get to choose to boycott the crap out of them to your heart's content. This is the free market and it's made so you can practice your freedom however you wish, and they theirs.


  • 0
Oneeee-Chan!!! (on 25 May 2019)

Unlike western,I feel VGC articles are always negative toward japanese .


  • -11
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ryuzaki57 (on 25 May 2019)

Please tell me in which way you're feeling it is negative. This article aims at defending Japanese gaming and Japanese creators against illegitimate rules and prejudice.


  • +11
CGI-Quality (on 26 May 2019)

Please stop Spamming this article with the same complaint. I'm sure your issue has been heard after all of these messages, but even if it hasn't, you cannot spam the same thing over and over.


  • +4