In a brief interview with Japanese gaming outlet Game*Spark, a Sony Interactive Entertainment spokesperson denied that they have introduced rules for the PS4 censorship policies. This is despite the fact that a spokesperson from Sony’s California branch recently confirmed to the Wall Street Journal that they do have a censorship policy in place. Nevertheless, the rep told Game*Spark they don’t actually consider the censorship policy an actual set of rules because they judge games on a “case by case” basis.
The article was published on April 25th, 2019, and the Sony rep was quick to tell Game*Spark…
“New rules have not been introduced.”
The rep wanted clarify that there were no set rules in place, opposite of say, China, who actually did introduce new regulatory rules for approving games for release in the mainland, as detailed in a report by Niko Partners.
Instead, the SIE representative told Game*Spark that it’s all on a case-by-case basis. Game*Spark paraphrased the representative’s comments, stating…
“At Sony, they’re attempting to respect the creative expression of developers, but in extraordinarily rare cases – where games that people enjoy have excessive amounts of sexual content that might appear to create displeasure or discomfort – on a case-by-case basis an executive officer [from Sony] will review and verify the contents [of the game] based on the circumstances, to ensure it complies with the policy.”
Game*Spark mentions that even with the policy in place the industry has been proactive in adding parental control functions to ensure that kids under a certain age don’t have access to certain kinds of mature themed content.
In fact, when Sony put out their parental controls video, it was bombed with downvotes because people criticized Sony for undermining both parental control settings and the regional ratings boards by forcing developers to comply with their censorship policies.
However, Sony doesn’t care about what gamers or even the ratings boards think. In fact, Game*Spark stated that Sony’s new policies were to move away from the CERO regulations and toward a “global standard” in order to police sexual expressions in games, where the outlet explained…
“To sum it up, SIE’s regulation on sexual content in some games is not all encompassing, and not all games are regulated all at once. Excessive sexual content in a game is monitored on a case-by-case basis by an executive officer at Sony.
“However, up until now Japan used CERO for regulatory standards, but now sexual content in games are being aligned with the very strict global standard policy.”
So in a way, this explains why some games will get a pass and other games don’t.
This is also an ongoing regulatory policy. It does not start or end with a game’s announcement or certification leading up toward release. If a game comes across Sony’s desk – even post release – that they feel contains “excessive” sexual expressions or content, they will regulate it. This is what happened with Mary Skelter 2, which released in Hong Kong after it had already been certified and given the 18+ marker by the ratings board, but Sony forced the developers to issue a post-release patch to remove the Purification System, which ended up breaking the game.
This might also explain why some games get a pass and others don’t. For instance, a lot of core gamers were wondering why LoveR and certain visual novels, like Dream Daddy, weren’t more heavily regulated on PS4 while other games were either forced to censor panty shots, navels, cleavage, or were outright banned. Well, again, as the SIE representative stated, it depends on if the censorship officer at Sony feels the sexual content is too “excessive”. If not, then they’ll let it pass.
In some ways, this sounds very similar to how Valve curates games on Steam. Sometimes Adults Only games get banned for being set in schools even when there are no kids in the game, like My Bullied Bride. Other times these Adults Only games get a pass even when they contain obscene content like the furry rape game Hunt and Snare. And then at some points we see that all-ages version of games set in college will get banned, like My Girlfriend, while Adults Only versions of games set in college get a pass, like Dirty Education. And in some rare cases, Valve will force a developer to censor their game or completely remove characters before they’re allowed on the platform, which is what happened to the developers of Food Girls.
According to some developers there are different curators at Valve who will give some games a pass while others will ban it on sight. Apparently there are similar kinds of curators at Sony, some of whom will let a game through even after it’s already been rated, while others will force a developer to censor their game.
As for why there are no actual policy rules for developers to follow, we don’t have a clear answer yet but journalists Nick Monroe and Sophia Narwitz both stated that they were briefly informed by some developers that Sony didn’t want to put solid policies in place because it might “trigger” someone or create micro-aggressions.
RUMOR: Sony’s censorship got as bad as it is now because “a pair of SJWs are now part of [Sony’s] standards and practices office.”
THEY WON’T WRITE OUT GUIDELINES because it “might trigger someone” and be a “micro-aggression.”
Leaving GAME DEVELOPERS in the dark.
— Nick Monroe (@nickmon1112) April 24, 2019
This matches something I was told in private awhile back. Though I was unable to independently verify given I wasn’t told much. However, all recent actions by Sony suggests it’s true, that & Nick is now putting such ideas forward, and often knows exactly what he is talking about https://t.co/WbUL0sJ6sk
— Sophia Narwitz (@SophNar0747) April 24, 2019
How true this is remains to be seen since developers are under NDA and aren’t supposed to talk about the policy, much in the same way they aren’t supposed to talk about platform certification procedures. However, some Japanese developers have openly made their disdain known for Sony’s censorship policies. In particular, Senran Kagura creative director, Kenichiro Takaki, resigned from his position at Marvelous Entertainment due to the stress of trying to work around Sony’s censorship policies, which greatly hampered what they were allowed to implement into Senran Kagura: 7EVEN.
Now that Sony has confirmed that there isn’t one set of rules to govern the censorship policy but something that’s more-so dependent on the censorship “officer” assigned to curate the game, it basically means that any game could get hit at any time for any reason and it will be based on the moral sensibilities of that particular officer. Let’s also not forget that the regulation is handled by Sony’s California branch, and the Japanese studios have to answer to the whims of the censorship officer.
All that is to say that it’s not looking good for the future of fan-service games on Sony’s platforms.
(Thanks for the news tip JP Gamer)