Sony's Censorship is Neither Rational Nor Legitimate - ArticleThomas 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.
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.
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.
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.