Nintendo: Censorship Makes Games Worse

Around June of 2018, Valve announced that they would ease up on game restrictions on the Steam store, preferring to let users decide which games were acceptable and which weren’t. This meant that, on the one hand, low-quality asset-flips and thinly-veiled porn games became much more common on the platform, but at the same time indie games and creators thrived on Steam. This is in stark contrast to the official Sony stance, which is that their Playstation 4 games will adhere to strict guidelines “so that creators can offer well-balanced content on the platform” that “does not inhibit the sound growth and development of young people”. What this means, essentially, is that sexually explicit or even questionable games will not be permitted on their store. This move appeared to be in order to limit the risk of a public outcry or scandal, especially considering that some Japanese game publishers have a tendency to feature explicit content of women who visually appear underage, which many people in the west (myself included) take issue with.

This brings us to Nintendo. In their recent Shareholder meeting, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa re-affirmed their existing stance on the subject, being that all third party developers have to obtain a rating from an independent organization prior to release. They do not, however, censor or block any content within any of the games, or place any restrictions on their third-party developers. He even took a subtle jab at Sony, stating:

“If platform-holding companies choose arbitrarily, the diversity and fairness in game software would be significantly inhibited. We provide parental controls that can be used to apply limits.”

Basically, censorship is bad for everyone involved, especially developers, and if you’re concerned about what the precious children see (won’t somebody think of the kids?), use parental controls and manage your kids yourself. This kind of stance is refreshing to see from a major company, especially in the United States, which has had a notoriously long history of blaming video games from problems directly caused by governmental incompetence. While this means, short-term, we may have to sift through a lot of games that are essentially just porn with motion controls, in the long term it means more and more indie games and developers will be able to thrive on their platform.

This move actually makes a lot of sense from Nintendo, seeing as how most of the games available on the Nintendo Switch are indie titles. Nintendo only has so many first-party games, and the majority of the playable library on the Switch are third-party. These games are hugely more successful on the Switch, and are a major reason for owning one as well. After all, if the choice is between purchasing on a PC that’s tethered to a desk, or purchasing on a phone-with-controllers-attached that you can take anywhere, it’s not even a contest. Plus, indie games tend to retail for far cheaper than first party games ($30 vs $60), which softens the blow of every single first-party game retailing for 60 USD on the Switch when compared to Steam sales and re-sellers on PC. Nintendo’s refusal to sink to Sony’s draconian censorship policies may appear unappetizing in the short-term, but will cultivate a better, more diverse gaming ecosystem for generations to come.

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