Amazon Games has been accused of censoring Bandai Namco’s upcoming MMO Blue Protocol after fans found altered models in the game’s pre-release benchmark test.
Earlier this month, in anticipation of the game’s release later this year, Amazon released both a benchmark test and character creator for Blue Protocol.
And despite the latter allowing players to create avatars with short skirts, skin-tight outfits, and large chests complete with jiggle physics, some players have seemingly uncovered evidence within the game’s pre-release code that indicates it will be explicitly censored for American players.
Taking to the /r/BlueProtocolPC subreddit to declare “Censor Protocol, dead on arrival“, /u/anone79 shared an allegedly datamined screenshot which appears to show the Japanese and US versions of two respective female character models.
The Japanese models can be seen wearing skirts and mid-riff exposing tops whilst their Western counterparts are shown with pants and their stomachs completely covered.
Despite a mod stressing that these files may not reflect the final product, /u/Mirimi discovered that the new censored models had already been used in the game’s English trailers.
“The bottom model, the desert NPC, is visible in trailers,” explained the eagle-eyed user. “Both her original appearance in the Japanese trailer, and her censored appearance in the American trailer. You can’t tell from the textureless model comparison in the OP, but the censored version even changes her legs to be completely black; making her wear tights. In the desert.”
“This confirms exactly what was suspected: the different models are the original and a censored version for the global version of the game,” they added. “And it confirms that this isn’t just some unused datamine, it’s what Amazon is going to give us.”
Interestingly, while this seeming confirmation of came as a surprise to American players, it seems it had been old news to German-speaking ones.
In an interview given to Deutsch video game news outlet PCGames.DE in December 2022, Amazon Games’ Blue Protocol franchise lead Mike Zadorojny confirmed (via Google Translate), “There will be a few minor differences between the Japanese and Western versions of Blue Protocol.”
“The main reason for this is that we are aiming for a ‘teen’ rating for our market so that Blue Protocol becomes a title that our friends and family can play together,” he explained. “There are certain things that we need to change for this goal, but things like bosses, open world experiences and such are the same in all versions.”
During a separate interview with German outlet Mein MMO, Zadorojny similarly admitted, “We’re making changes specifically for the Western market. We want a design that suits Western players, and we’re finding our own ways to satisfy players.”
Further, it seems Blue Protocol was unlikely to have ever made it to the West unscathed, as according to Amazon Games’ head of marketing Sarah Anderson, the studios’ approach to Korean and Japanese games fully concerns itself with the question, “How much do you localize those games for the west?”
“There are a lot of decisions that have to be made,” Anderson told Venture Beat in February 2023. “Is it just language, or are you actually adapting for the culture and changing the content?”
“What we believe is important is to respect the vision of the developer and creator of the game,” she continued. “That’s important. But how do you make those adjustments and culturalize it?”
“It’s been a really interesting challenge,” asserted the marketing exec. “That’s something we’ve been focused on over the past two years with these projects, and we’re going to continue doing it.”
Notably, this would not be the first time that Amazon has censored an Eastern-developed game for Western audiences, as the company has made numerous to ‘de-sexify‘ the appearances of numerous character models in the Korean MMO Lost Ark.
Most recently they updated the Artist class to give the class’ female models a second skirt underneath their standard one in order to make “the game feel approachable and representative of our Western players”.