#29 - Sony & Censorship
Hey everyone, we know this has been a topic of concern, so thank you for your patience with everything so far; we've gone over the topic, and had some thoughts about the ongoing situation regarding Sony's apparent change in content policy.
As you can imagine, we wanted to make sure we understood the situation and were transparent about this, and fair to all parties involved as we formulated our thoughts on things. This is a curious issue, and one that could lean to a lot of issues dependent on our reaction, so we didn't want to jump the gun and rush an official response.
The mission statement of SUZAKU is to be bold in who we are and make games that exist outside the typical sphere of western AAA games, in ways the industry most certainly would not associate themselves with. This means bringing back the fun, SEXY, and awesome visuals and ideas of the long gone 90s and early 00s. As such, these potential policies may not have directly worried us, but were certainly concerning; however, as of writing this update, Sony has neither reached out to us nor demanded any changes. However, of course, we are not yet to a stage in development where that would naturally occur as well, so we really cannot say whether or not any of this will be a problem for us and Sense going forward. Furthermore, from our observations, these policies have seemed rather scattered and inconsistent, so we also unfortunately can't exactly anticipate any potential outcomes for better or for worse. The following is the official view of SUZAKU on the topic;
On Censorship - Freedom of Speech, freedom of thought, freedom of expression. Nothing is more important to art and the medium of video games. NOTHING. forced censorship is not just wrong, it is abhorrent. It stifles creativity. It stops growth. Censorship is a cancer, because the only things that proliferate under that kind of environment are boring, gray, dead lumps that eventually destroy the host. Censorship will kill our industry and our hobby if we let it. More than that it will destroy an entire generation or more of storytellers and artists. Fight censorship tooth and nail anywhere you see it. That said;
On Sony - I love Sony. I am a long time Sony fan and avid buyer of their products. I have no way to prove one way or another the specifics regarding whether SIE has suddenly implemented any kind of new policies regarding censorship or sexual content. I also have no reason to disbelieve what multiple developers are saying, and what is being reported on the topic. If this policy is as I've heard, it is a massive misstep and breach of my trust as a long time supporter and customer. However, requiring a developer to meet certain standards with their product in order to have access to their platform is not censorship. It is content curation. Unfortunately, the decision to censor comes from the developers themselves. Is Sony forcing the developer's hand? Of course. Is our hand being forced? Not yet, but if Sony requires some kind of editing on our part, then yes. Is it ethically wrong? 100%. Is there anything we can do? As long as I want to release Sense on a Sony product, no. Sony has the right to dictate their standards, who they chose to do business with and how. They are also the largest shareholder for the audience, and we would be incredibly stupid not to forge a relationship with Sony, and make sure we have a stable future with them. Why?
On our future - change takes some level of clout, power, and numbers. a brand new studio with one game in development by a few relatively unknown developers does not have the ability to fight these type of decisions if it means risking the future of their studio. A SUCCESSFUL, well-funded, and trusted developer does have the ability to start speaking up and being vocal. A studio with a solid, well received game and killer I.P. has the ability to point to their success and say "do you want this on your platform or not?"; They might just decide to be console exclusive to a certain handheld with detachable controllers for their sequel game if it means not having to censor anything. Do I want Sense to be exclusive to one console(and/or PC)? Of course not. But with proof of an audience comes bargaining chips. That said, if Takaki couldn't get it done, then perhaps the future is decided. We are really hoping that Sony reverses course on this decision, or at least clarifies their position.
On our decision - With all of this laid out, I want to be very clear about what will happen if Sony demands any content edits.
- Any edits and censorship required by Sony to release on the PS4 and VITA will be made as needed. We do not anticipate in an absolute worst case scenario this will be anything beyond minor edits to art, but it's still something which we wanted to prepare for.
- The game will remain unedited on PC and Switch, regardless of distribution platform.
- We will be extremely clear on what content was cut and how it is being changed, and the art book will feature cut art so that you will be able to see it clearly.
- Every person who backed the kickstarter or pre-ordered the game on PS4 or PSVITA will receive a digital Nintendo Switch or PC copy for free (PC via steam or direct download).
Sadly, at this early stage in SUZAKU's life we just cannot take a hit on potential fans, feedback, and support by losing the Sony platform for our first game, ESPECIALLY since so many of you pledged specifically for the Vita & PS4 releases. I have been looking forward to being on a Sony console, this has been my dream since I was a kid playing Metal Gear and Resident Evil on my brother's PS1. So as you can imagine this is a bit difficult for me personally. If all goes well none of these issues will effect us and Sense will release without any changes.
I sincerely hope you all understand the position we have taken. I hope that no matter what happens you will support us and help SUZAKU become big enough to help move the industry back to the open, free, and creative field it SHOULD and CAN be. I know it may not be what you were looking for and I know it may all be completely useless as we are several months out from even needing to worry about this issue. We just felt it was important to clarify everything and make our position known while the storm is still swirling overhead.
Note From Top Hat Studios, Inc.:
We stand alongside SUZAKU's decision and position regarding censorship, and it is important to us to allow associated, partnered developers on our label to be able to express their beliefs on such and make these decisions for themselves. Personally, we're also disappointed with this decision, and will continue to inquire about further information in regards to it, as well as continue to be transparent with any games - including Sense - which we publish on the PS4 & VITA Platforms. We do not anticipate that this will effect anything in a serious fashion, but as Ben stated, we are prepared for a slight delay on Sony platforms in a worst case scenario if certain edits are requested by Sony. While we are very happy to be partnered with Sony and value their partnership immensely, we think this is a policy misstep - and much like Steam is opening itself to new content - we hope Sony will rethink this decision in the near future. Unfortunately, as Ben said above, we aren't big enough either to be able to bargain with the wider industry on these topics, and thus are at the mercy of platforms we distribute through and partner with. We understand a lot of these issues end up hurting the consumer the most in the end, which is why we're especially disappointed with this change in policy. As such, we'll do our best to honor additional copies for PC or Switch to dissatisfied backers who backed on PS4 or Vita, as mentioned above. This should not effect physicals at all, so there's no need to worry about that. To sum up again, we deeply resonate with the idea of freedom of expression and unbound creativity, and will do our best ourselves to uphold these tenets, even if the cards dealt to us are less than ideal at times.