To my English-language readers and co-bloggers: Dead Rising from Capcom is not banned in Germany. I know, the German system is complicated and unique, so you might get confused – but before you just take a news item for granted, how about asking somebody from Germany to get the facts straight?
USK, the equivalent to ESRB or PEGI, has decided to give Dead Rising no age rating at all because it might, and I need to stress might, get “banned” in the future due to its violent nature. For the time being that only means two things:
- The game can not be sold to minors and can not be sold via mail order – but it still could be advertised and shown openly.
- Microsoft does not allow software companies to publish “unrated” games on Xbox 360 (in the US, every 360 game has to have an ESRB rating) – and in Germany we have the unique situation that a game can be denied a rating by USK, making it technically an unrated game. So Dead Rising can not be published in Germany.
Now, what CAN happen is that the BPjM could “ban” the game (I’ll stick with the word “ban” although it is literally wrong, as it is not a real ban of the game but more a ban of the promotion of the game). It can do that with unrated games only. When this “ban” happens, the game still can legally be sold “under the counter” to adults but any kind of advertising, including just showing it in a store, is forbidden. To get such a “ban” though the game must be available on the german market first, then a youth organization can apply for such a “ban” and this whole process can take several weeks. There is no way to “ban” a title before it even is released.
The Catch-22 in this is that BPjM can not “ban” any rated games. So if USK gives the game a rating, it is out of BPjMs reach. This in the past has led to some heated discussions about games that politicians said should have been “banned” but couldn’t. Therefore USK is under the pressure of not rating a game if they see the possibility that somebody will ask for it to get “banned” in the future. And as this dilemma only happens to a minimal amount of games published (less then a handful a year out of several hundred releases), this problem is not high on the agenda.
So Dead Rising could be legally sold in Germany, but won’t be published. Yeah, I know this sucks. Tell our politicians please.
Xbox 360 with its unique parental control system would make titles like Dead Rising permissible even in a strict market like Germany. All it would need is an official age rating of any kind. The situation of a game having no age rating at all is weird and not very customer- or publisher-friendly. On the other hand, Microsoft (in my view) can not loosen the tight rule of requiring every game to carry a proper legal age rating – because that would immediately undermine the Family Settings feature and make the situation in the long term worse rather than better. The Family Settings in Xbox allow adult players to enjoy the content they want while protecting children from inappropriate content. And all that is tuned to the local standards by using the local age rating systems. Now we just need a legal rating for every game and we’re fine.