Sony's censorship policy on PlayStation
In 2016, Sony Interactive Entertainment moved their headquarters to San Mateo, California, and had suddenly begun a series of questionable decisions, one of them being a new strict policy to censor games on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, specifically Japanese games that are niche and have fan-service in them and now violence since Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. This is known as the "Sony check" (ソニーチェック) in Japan.
This policy was met with a negative reception from fans due to its hypocrisy, limitation on creative freedom of developers, the fact that this was done in response to the #MeToo movement, and that it defeats the purpose of rating systems.
Examples of Games Censored by Sony
- Nora to Oujo to Noraneko Heart: The girls are covered up with solar flares (or in some cases bubbles when ever they're in a bathtub) while doing sexual poses (one is pictured above).
- Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal: The Intimacy Mode was removed, a mode where you basically get to play with a character's large breasts.
- Dead or Alive: Xtreme 3 - Scarlet: The "Gold Fan" and "Softening Gel" items were taken out.
- Blade Arcus Rebellion: The cover art in the PS4 version was cropped to the point where you can't see Wang Bailong's bare thighs.
- Omega Labyrinth Z: Blocked from Western release.
- Omega Labyrinth Life: Renamed to Labyrinth Life on the PlayStation 4, since Hinata Akatsuki and her breasts were removed from the logo.
- Devil May Cry 5: There is a scene where Dante carries a naked Trish onto his motorcycle with solar flares blurring out Trish's butt in the PS4 version, while the Xbox One and PC versions didn't blur her butt. A patch was later made to remove the flares in the PS4 version.
- Nekopara Vol. 1: The jiggly physics slider was removed and the spicy dialogue was toned down, which downgraded the game's ESRB rating to "E for everyone", while the Switch version's rating was still "M for mature", which Vol. 2 or 3, this game is rated "M for Mature". Fortunately, this game was re-rated “M For Mature" for sexual themes.
- Warriors Orochi 4: Lianshi's breast physics were reduced in the PlayStation 4 version while they still bounce in the Nintendo Switch version, though it was later revealed that it was bug that made her breast bounce for the former.
- SNK 40th Anniversary Collection: Goddess Athena's bikini was replaced with her golden armor in the cover art.
- Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!: (despite the game being made in the United States) Changed all blood from red to black whilst the PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series and Switch versions remained red.
- 20 Ladies: All of the suggestive female characters were removed and changed for cartoony rabbits, and the title was changed to 20 Bunnies, which downgraded the ESRB's rating to "E for Everyone", while the Switch version is still "M for Mature". Though considering this game's quality is on the level of shovelware, this may have been done on purpose.
- Martha is Dead: Discomfortable themes and contents, with sensitive depictions
Why This Policy Isn’t Playful-Station
- Sony claims that they censor certain Japanese games to protect from children getting ahold of them, which doesn't make any sense given that these games aren't aimed towards children anyway and it's the parents' job to monitor what game a child plays, not the publishers'.
- There is absolutely no reason for this policy to exist, because rating systems like ESRB, PEGI, and CERO already exist and they determine whether a game is appropriate or not.
- This also limits the developers' creative freedom of what type of content they add to their games.
- The policy is extremely hypocritical because Sony allows third-party and first-party western games to have blood and gore, excessive swearing, and even sex scenes with full nudity (the worst offender being The Last of Us Part II since the sex scenes are unskippable), but they won't allow anime girls with big breasts and small bikinis in niche Japanese third-party games.
- As stated above, they often cover up girls in provocative poses with sun flares, which can be illogical because of the positions they're in and the flares shouldn't be lighting where the girls are.
- This is embarrassing for Sony to disallow fanservice in Japanese games while Steam, GOG.com, Microsoft, and Nintendo (now at least), the most family-friendly console manufacturer, are all completely lenient with this type of content, with Steam even allowing borderline pornographic games.
- Though still sexually suggestive, none of the sexual content that Sony censors is borderline or explicit, and is completely harmless, but Sony removes it from certain games anyway.
- Oddly, this policy is primarily directed towards (mostly) obscure Japanese video games instead of AAA or indie western games, with the exceptions of Terminator Resistance and Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, and the only AAA Japanese game that was affected by this policy is Devil May Cry 5. This is due to the fact that they want the games they censor to meet the "global standards" of the west.
- Because of this policy, Sony is slowly starting to lose a handful of third-party Japanese game developers. For example, Gal Gun Returns was confirmed to be coming to PC, the Xbox One (now cancelled), and the Nintendo Switch, rather than the PlayStation 4, due to the censorship policy that has been plaguing PS4 games.
- Sony never gives the developers any guidelines when releasing a game on their console, almost as if they knew the developers would never put their games on the PlayStation 4 if the latter had been informed that Sony would censor their products.
- Removing certain parts of the game, even if it's a minor inconvenience, is rather expensive to do and is a complete waste of time and money.
- At times, depending on the image, the rays of light on the images of anime fanservice can make the fanservice look even MORE inappropriate and suggestive!
- They now censor some graphic violence (which they did to Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! and Martha is dead) despite publishing games like The Last Of Us Part II and the God Of War franchise which are famous for extremely high levels of graphic violence.
- Certain games like Guilty Gear Strive have fanservice, however if you actually used the PS4/PS5 share feature to share screenshots you can actually get banned for sharing content of sexual nature.
- While this doesn't excuse Sony and censorship is still bad, but sometimes few games got censored or removed from the PS store for good reasons, such as Super Seducer which gives very misleading advice about dating.
- So far, none of the censored games are exclusive to Playstation consoles, so if you want to play them uncensored, you can try other versions such as Nekopara on Steam.
Reception and Controversy
As stated above, Sony's new censorship policy against having fanservice in PS4 games was poorly received by critics and fans, due to the fact that it limits creative control of the developers, those games were never meant for children, and this was done to ensure that the Japanese games meet the "global standards" of the west.
Sony spoke out on their policy, and said they censored their games, because of the #MeToo movement, and they did it to keep the children safe from fanservice in the games they censored (which defeats the purpose of rating systems). This, again, received a poor reception from fans because Sony allows blood, gore, profanity, sex, and nudity in AAA western games, but they don't tolerate voluptuous anime girls doing harmless things like wearing a skimpy bikini in a provocative pose.
Nintendo (surprisingly) responded to this controversy, stating that like every other platform manufacturer (except Sony), rather than censoring third-party games, they would allow rating systems such as ESRB, PEGI, and CERO to determine whether or not a game is appropriate for a child to play. They also mentioned that they had a robust Parental Controls app designed for parents to set restrictions on what their children can and cannot play. Microsoft, on the other hand, had nothing to say on the matter.
The "global standards" of the west have resulted in many adverse effects for the PlayStation 5 (and the PlayStation brand in general) in the east. The PS5 is flopping in Japan, shifting only 240,000 units in the first six weeks. The confirm button was changed from the circle (○) button to the cross (×) button for Asian PS5 units. Various Japanese developers are abandoning Sony which lead to a steady decrease in third-party support for PlayStation 5.