Sony is reportedly changing its standards for sexual content in new PlayStation games in response to the #MeToo movement and livestreaming

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The “Dead or Alive” franchise is frequently criticized for its objectification of women.
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Koei Techmo

  • Sony has adopted new standards to cut down on the number of PlayStation games that feature sexually explicit depictions of women, according to a new report from the Wall Street Journal.
  • The PlayStation 4 is the most popular video game console on the planet, with more than 90 million consoles and 800 million PlayStation games sold around the world.
  • Sony told the Journal changed its policy for approving new PlayStation games in response to the #MeToo movement and growing interest in livestreamers on platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
  • The policy shift has reportedly forced some developers to make unique changes to the PlayStation version of their games, and some creators are said to feel that the guidelines are too strict.

Sony officials tell the Wall Street Journal that the gaming giant updated its policy for approving new PlayStation games worldwide, in response to the cultural shifts brought about by the #MeToo movement and the increased visibility of video game livestreaming.

Per the report, Sony wants to avoid promoting games that disparage and objectify women, or that contain sexual content. The company is particularly concerned about being associated with Japanese titles that feature sexualized images of underage girls.

“Sony is concerned the company could become a target of legal and social action,” a spokesperson for Sony in the United States told the Journal. Business Insider has reached out to Sony for further comment on the new policies, and will update if we hear back.

Sony’s home market of Japan has a reputation for having a higher tolerance for erotic games – games that might be considered risqué, or outright offensive, in the United States.

In the past, Sony restricted many of those games for sale to Japanese PlayStation users, but livestreaming platforms like YouTube and Twitch can give any game the possibility to go viral around the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, response to the #MeToo movement has encouraged a more thoughful approach critique of how women are represented in video games and other popular media.

And so, Sony is changing its rules to distance itself from games that might be found problematic. However, these new rules are reportedly being implemented in a way that some developers and gamers find confusing or inconsistent.

Here’s what you need to know:


Some Japanese developers are said to be frustrated that Sony hasn’t offered written guidelines for their new policy on sexual content.

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“SENRAN KAGURA Burst Re:Newal” was delayed for several months in North America due to sexual content. The game describes itself as “the world’s best-loved buxom battle series.”
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XSEED Games

The report says that Sony hasn’t made written changes to the policy, but multiple developers who spoke under the condition of anonymity told the Journal they have been asked to make changes to fit within the company’s guidelines for sexual content. The developers said Sony lacked written guidelines regarding sexual content, and repeated requests for adjustments were inconsistent.

“You don’t know what they will say until you complete the work and submit it for review,” the head of a Japanese game studio told the Wall Street Journal. A Sony official told the Journal that the policy was “introduced kind of suddenly,” which is why the company hasn’t offered written guidelines yet.


Some games have included PS4-specific censorship in response to Sony’s new policies.

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Capcom

Sony’s updated policy has seemingly led to unique censorship in the PlayStation 4 version of games released on multiple platforms. For example, the American & European versions of “Devil May Cry V” used a lens flare effect to censor the buttocks of a nude female character on PlayStation 4, while the Japanese versions of the game for any platform didn’t feature the same effect. A patch to the game eventually removed the lens flare from the American version of the game but left it in the European version, leaving fans confused.


Last year Sony made the publishers of “Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newel” remove Intimacy Mode before the game was released in Western markets. Intimacy Mode lets players grope and undress the game’s female characters.

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XSEED Games

A small group of gamers expressed concern about the censorship of sexual content in October 2018 when Sony delayed the Western PlayStation 4 release of “Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newel.” Sony forced the game’s publisher to remove a feature from the game called “Intimacy Mode,” which allows players to grope and strip young women in the game.

The game, which describes itself as “the world’s best-loved buxom battle series,” hit North America in January 2019 after a few months of delay. Intimacy mode was included in the Japanese version of the game, leading some players in the West to claim that their version of the game was incomplete due to censorship. XSEED Games, the company responsible for localizing the game from Japan, said it would respect the wishes of Sony, the platform holder.


Sony is taking a proactive approach to combat sexism in gaming, but with no written guidelines, it will be hard for the company to define what is or isn’t acceptable.

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The new “Tomb Raider” trilogy works to dispel the stereotypes that followed protagonist Lara Croft for years.
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“Shadow of the Tomb Raider”/Square Enix

As corporate platforms like PlayStation have become essential to how we consume media, the companies behind them have been forced by circumstance to step up and take a stance on what will be allowed on their platform.

Sony is taking a proactive approach to combat sexism in gaming, but with no written guidelines, it will be hard for the company to define what is or isn’t acceptable. At the very least, Sony’s new stance should lead to more awareness of misogynist content in games, and a greater interest in making games that are fun for everyone.