So when I read the news about the details that Sony released about the upcoming PlayStation 5, I was a bit pleasantly surprised that my expectations of the coming hardware upgrade to that next generation seemed to be surpassed. Little did I know in that moment that something else was making the rounds about Sony as well…
This concerns something that has been rumbling in the past several months already, with Sony mandating censorship of some Japanese niche titles (even in Japan) and their rather bad handling of that (with the meetings having to be done according to US time-zones, in English and all…). Devil May Cry 5 was another curious case very recently, with only the western PlayStation 4 version of that being censored as far as consoles were concerned.
Now it has come to light via The Wall Street Journal that Sony has an internal regulatory board, even though national rating boards aren’t exactly new. This regulatory board is supposed to make sure that games published on their platforms adhere to Sony’s new in-house standard that limit sexually explicit content. Officially Sony is concerned that their reputation could take a hit from more explicit games that are only sold in some markets (like Japan). Because apparently they have NOW become aware of YouTube and Twitch being a global thing? Have they been just blind to the positive reputation they got by their systems being region free, niche titles being on there aplenty and globalization in general?
Oh also, one of the reasons cited for the whole regulations is so that gaming “does not inhibit the sound growth and development” of young people. Yes, you read that right. This is pretty much the live reenactment of the Simpsons “think of the children” meme (sigh). And to top it off, they also mentioned the #metoo movement as one of the reasons for the changes. I’d say that I am at a loss for words, but that would be strange considering I’m still typing this article… it’s definitely a headscratcher. I’ve also got a weird impulse to accelerate my forehead towards nearby walls, repeatedly.
Japanese developers that have been on the receiving end of this regulatory board do not describe the whole process as pleasant, as they only know what Sony wants changed once they completed the game and sent it in for review. Looking at other titles apparently is not helpful either as they can change their minds about what is allowed rather quickly. The whole thing is also pretty costly for smaller devs, making the risk even bigger.
Ok, I can’t keep it back any longer… WHAT THE SMEG ARE YOU DOING, SONY? When Nintendo… NINTENDO of all companies has a more sound practice in this regard (they don’t regulate content beyond what is required to obtain a rating from the various national rating boards), you should really stop and contemplate what you are doing with your life. Sure, you’ve been wildly successful in this generation of consoles, with a MASSIVE lead and you’ll likely keep that pole position next generation if Microsoft doesn’t come up with something REALLY special. But these kinds of practices really start to reek of a similar arrogance that caused them significant problems at the start of the PlayStation 3 generation. The audience that is interested in the kind of niche games that Sony is targeting here may not be that big, but they will not forget easily how they were treated and essentially betrayed, even if that might sound a bit dramatic. Some other folks (like me), that aren’t fond of censorship, will also take notice of this and adjust their buying decisions accordingly.
I can only speak for myself, but after this revelation my willingness to purchase a PlayStation 5 has dropped considerably (thankfully at this point Sony/PlayStation exclusive titles that interest me are few and far between, though I almost feel bad that the surely coming Horizon: Zero Dawn sequel will be caught in the crossfire, but ah well, my backlog is extensive).