The recent toning down of sexual games on the PlayStation 4 is not an accident or a coincidence. Sony has a new set of guidelines for regulating the sexually explicit content in the games sold on its platform, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal.
“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,” the Wall Street Journal writes. This is allegedly a result of executives at the company being afraid the sale of sexually explicit games might hurt its global reputation.
According to the Wall Street Journal, “One of their biggest concerns is software sold in the company’s home market of Japan, which traditionally has had more tolerance for near-nudity and images of young women who might appear underage.”
Sony did not immediately respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.
The Wall Street Journal points to two main reasons for the new policy based on its conversations with unnamed Sony officials. The first is the rise of the #MeToo movement, a campaign to combat sexual misconduct, harassment, and assault and change how those issues are discussed. It gained momentum in 2017 after multiple women accused film producer Harvey Weinstein of being a sexual predator. The second is the growing ubiquity of streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube where sexually explicit games coming out of Japan can find a global audience.
“Sony is concerned the company could become a target of legal and social action,” a Sony official in the U.S. told the Wall Street Journal.
The new guidelines are in contrast to Nintendo, which told the Wall Street Journal that sexually explicit games can be sold on the Switch as long they receive a rating from a national agency like the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Platform holders actually haven’t ever released any games that the Board has given an Adults Only rating, but M-rated games can have some sexual content and are common on all platforms.
The adult visual novel Nekopara Vol. 1, which includes partial nudity and the option to “pet” female characters using a virtual cursor, released on Switch last summer with a rating of “Mature 17+” while the PS4 version was delayed until November. When it finally came out, fans reported several changes that made it less sexually explicit, including extra steam in bath scenes and the removal of a slider players could use in the other versions to make characters’ breasts jiggle more.
Though Sony never announced the new guidelines, fans of various adult games began to speculate that some new policy had been introduced after an uptick in delays and censorship last fall. Last October, publisher Xseed Games announced that the adult game Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal would be delayed on PS4 in order to remove the “intimacy mode” and comply with “the wishes of the platform holder.” At the time, the game’s localizer, Tom Lipschultz, tweeted that this was part of some new requirement.
That same month, a representative of the Japanese game studio Light said during a live stream that a PS4 port of its 2017 visual novel Silverio Trinity was still waiting on approval from Sony to release the game. “Right now Sony seems to be moving toward disallowing ports of ages 18 and up titles worldwide,” the representative said, according to a translation by Gematsu. “And this game is ages 18 and up, so it’s being subjected to a very strict inspection, and we’re getting all these questions.”
Earlier this year, players found that the Western PS4 version of Devil May Cry 5 included light beams in one of its cutscenes to hide a female character’s exposed butt. The scene was unchanged in the Xbox One and PC versions of the game. It was also unchanged in the Japense PS4 version, leaving it unclear whether it was affected by Sony’s new guidelines or the result of some internal decision on Capcom’s end.