In the wake of Sony’s recent trend of arbitrarily censoring video games released on their PlayStation 4 console, a Sony spokeswoman has confirmed the existence of a company censorship policy, which they claim has been developed out of a desire to protect children and in response to American societal developments.
Recent months have seen numerous instances of censorship by Sony which appear to almost exclusively target titles made by Japanese developers aiming to release their titles on Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) console. These instances include Devil May Cry V seeing a single instance of Trish’s nude backside covered by a purple light for western territories, risqué items which altered ‘jiggle physics’ and allowed a player to blow wind up a character’s skirt being completely removed from Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet, and an embattled development cycle for Senran Kagura: 7EVEN which led to series producer Kenichirō Takaki resigning from Marvelous Entertainment over Sony’s insistent censorship. While no official statement had previously been provided by Sony, many fans began to speculate that the company had adopted a widespread policy of censorship which particularly focused on sexual content.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article, a spokeswoman confirmed the existence of a strict content policy, stating that it was developed in order to protect children but declining to provide details regarding specifics, such as when the policy was adopted or what the guidelines entail:
“A Sony spokeswoman confirmed the company has established its own guidelines “so that creators can offer well- balanced content on the platform” and gaming “does not inhibit the sound growth and development” of young people. She declined to say when these guidelines were introduced or to discuss them in detail.”
However, content which may be harmful or detrimental to children is not the only content which Sony is attempting to combat with this policy. According to The Wall Street Journal, the policy was heavily influenced by the #MeToo movement and the rise of live streaming platforms:
“Two factors last year combined to turn that unease into action, these Sony officials say. One was the rise of the #MeToo movement in the U.S., which pointed to the dangers of being associated with content that some might see as demeaning to women. The second was the emergence of channels on sites like YouTube and Amazon Inc.’s Twitch where gamers play in front of a camera and are watched by fans online. That means games meeting Japan’s laxer standards can get world-wide exposure.”
Some have noted that the actions regarding “content that some might see as demeaning to women” may have already taken place: In March of 2018, self-proclaimed feminists and activists successfully pressured Sony into removing Super Seducer: How to Talk to Girls, a game which purports to teach “state-of-the-art seduction secrets from the master himself, Richard La Ruina”, from the PlayStation Network storefront (the game is still available for purchase on Steam).
While Sony’s policy will continue to have an abysmal effect on creative expression and severely limit artistic freedom, the arbitrary policy also carries with it an enormous financial cost for developers. According to a chief executive of a small Japanese developer:
“You don’t know what they will say until you complete the work and submit it for review,” said the chief executive of a small game developer in Japan. “And if they are not happy, even if they allowed the same degree of sexuality a few days before, we need to take it back and ask our staff to make adjustments. That’s very costly.”
In response to this stringent policy, The Wall Street Journal also reached out to Sony’s main competitors, Microsoft and Nintendo, inquiring about their own censorship policies. Though Microsoft declined to comment, Nintendo confirmed that they would not perform any extraneous censorship on any given game, appropriately leaving the decision to restrict content solely to players and parents:
“Nintendo said it doesn’t regulate sexual content beyond requiring game makers to obtain a rating from national bodies. It said its game systems allow parents to restrict content based on the rating.”
What do you make of Sony’s confirmation of their censorship policy? Do you agree with it or do you think they’ve gone overboard?