An article about games censorship writes that the current trend is for female characters to be covered up but notes that there has been no suggestion that the depiction of violence is being reigned in.
In passing the article provides a few statistics about the reluctance for the US games rating board to invoke the adults only AO rating. The article notes:
Since its formation nearly 25 years ago, the ESRB has only given 29 games an AO rating. Of those titles, only two have earned the rating solely for violent content ( Hatred and Thrill Kill ), while 26 games on the list sport
content descriptors such as strong sexual content, mature sexual themes or nudity. (The only remaining title on the list that has neither violent or sexual content, 2003's Peak Entertainment Casinos , was given the rating for offering
real-world gambling elements in-game.)
Receiving an AO rating has been called the kiss of death by gaming critics and analysts, as it essentially makes the game unavailable for most players. The majority of retailers, such as Best Buy or GameStop, refuse to stock AO games; console
giants Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft refuse to publish AO games; and streaming platform Twitch has banned titles with AO ratings from being broadcast.
Of the 29 games that have received AO ratings, commercial hits are few and far between. The best selling titles on the list, 2004's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and 2007's Manhunt 2 , were both published by Rockstar Games and each
game was edited down to an M rating after receiving the AO tag (in the case of San Andreas , the game only earned the AO rating temporarily, after the discovery of an unfinished mini-game featuring a sexual encounter, titled Hot Coffee, was
found. It was later patched out and the game regained its M rating). Most other games on the list were far from financial boons.
A gony is a 2018 US survival horror by Madmind Studio
Players begin their journey as a tormented soul within the depths of Hell without any memories about their past. The special ability to control people on their path, and possess minded demons, gives the player the necessary measures to survive
in the extreme conditions they are in
Last month it was announced that games developer Madmind was forced to cut its Agony game to avoid an uncommercially viable AO (Adults-Only) rating from the US games censors of the ESRB. Madmind promised that the AO version would be restored via
Madmind have now cancelled the patch citing legal issues. The company have said not quite so much material has had to be cut as first thought. The company said:
The censorship now affects only several seconds from two endings (out of seven) and some scenes that may be unlocked only after the end of the game.
Madmind have said that they will at least explain the cuts in a documentary video that will show the material that had to be cut for an M rating in the US.
The cut version has just been released worldwide and is 18 rated by PEGI for the European region.
Update: May still be the possibility of an uncut version
Developers Madmind signed a distribution deal for the game to appear on the Xbox One , PS4 , and Steam that ended up nullifying their ability to distribute the Adults Only patch as they had originally promised. It seems that this contractual
agreement included a ban on patching games appearing on these platforms. However it seems that an uncensored version could appear elsewhere as long as any patches there cannot be applied to the games appearing on Xbox/PS4/Steam.
During a lengthy Q&A session, Madmind attempted to address why the game's uncensored version wasn't made available. They were also asked if it would be possible to release the uncensored content through a GOG.com version. According to
Madmind, they responded:
The contract with the publishers did not allow us to make the Adult Only version. We could not do anything about it. Violation of these laws would cause huge financial penalties, which would result in immediate closure of the company and the
game would not have been issued. Without publishers -- the production process would be interrupted and the game would not appear. We are in talks with GOG. If they agree, Agony will be released on this platform in a version with all patches and
without censorship, with official AO rating.
Update: Agony's censored scenes published in a video
Madmind Studio kept their word and released a video showcasing the original Adults Only content they had to cut in order to secure a Mature rating for the game Agony.
The NSFW video clocks in at 4:48 minutes. It features the content that Madmind had to trim in order to secure the Mature rating, this includes scenes of genital penetration, a couple of seconds of butt physics, various forms of infanticide, as
well as a sequence involving demon sex and a succubus giving birth to a demon baby through a mutilated vagina.
Update: Madmind announces that Agony Unrated can now be released on Steam
It is with a great pleasure that we want to inform you we have found a way to publish the unrated version of Agony! Agony Unrated will be a separate title produced and published by Madmind Studio and without the
involvement of any publishers. It features additional content and changes suggested by you -- our community -- as nothing is more valuable to us than you.
We are doing our best to offer Agony Unrated to as many people as possible. Our goal is for each person that already owns Agony on Steam to be able to buy Agony Unrated with the biggest discount possible on that platform --
99% -- or release it as a free DLC . We are currently talking with the Steam representatives to make sure it is doable. Agony Unrated will be released about three months from now and it will include all the updates from the standard version of
the game. Agony Unrated also brings:
· Additional sounds in the game and the cutscenes.
· Additional erotic animations for characters in the backgrounds.
· High resolution textures and models -- without any censorship.
· All the scenes that have been removed from the standard version of Agony .
· Agony Mode unlocked from the beginning.
· Additional content for Agony Mode (Setting -- The Forest, Boss Fight -- Baphomet).
· Succubus Mode unlocked from the beginning.
· Additional animations for Succubus Mode .
The whole team is working on patches and fixes for the game and we are planning to be releasing them until the most of you (if not everyone!) in our beloved community is satisfied with our game.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board has confirmed it will cease offering free age and content ratings for online video games next month. The Short Form ratings process the ESRB currently offers for download-only and online games will be
discontinued in June. The ESRB will continue with the higher cost Long Form ratings, primarily used for physical/boxed games. A date has not yet been set for the end of the service.
Developers feared that they would be forced to pay for the higher cost rating otherwise they would not be allowed to release their titles on key platforms like Xbox that demand a content rating.
However the ESRB's official Twitter feed responding that:
Developers of digital games and apps will still be able to obtain ESRB ratings at no cost through the IARC rating process. The Microsoft Store deployed IARC years ago and has committed to making IARC ratings accessible to all Xbox developers.
So, developers should not be concerned.
The International Age Rating Coalition is a newer system for obtaining age ratings for multiple territories and storefronts with a single process. While ESRB single out the Xbox Store, it is also accepted on Google Play, the Nintendo eShop, and
the Oculus Store.
There is currently no word on when this will apply to the PlayStation Store, but an IARC press release in December 2017 said the platform would be added soon.
Update: But major US games platforms do not yet allow IARC ratings
On May 18, the ESRB announced it was putting an end to its short-form rating system. These so-called short-form ratings are what you typically find on independent digital games on Steam and the like. They're brief marks that give a rundown on
the content of a game, and are usually hard to find, especially on Steam. What you find on retail copies of video games are long-form ratings. The key difference is that short-form ratings can be given free of charge, but long-form ratings
require payment to the ESRB by a game's developer or publisher.
Console manufactures (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft), as well as online storefronts such as Steam and GOG require an ESRB rating to be sold. That means that, in effect, video game developers and publishers will now be required to pay the ESRB
before they can sell their own games.
So why is the ESRB doing this? The ESRB is keeping their lips sealed on that front, so nobody knows. It's likely an effort to promote their own subsidiary, the International Age Ratings Coalition (IARC) as a company spokesperson pointed out that
developers could still get free ratings from them. The IARC is a group created by the ESRB (read: ESA) that's trying to create a unified age rating system internationally, doing away with PEGI and CERO and any other independent software
Or is it? So far, the only platforms that accept a rating from the IARC in place of the ESRB are Nintendo, Microsoft, Google, and Oculus. The ESRB says Sony has vowed to support the IARC soon, but even then, other online storefronts like Steam or
Apple aren't on board, and the growing cottage industry of physically produced indie games will be required to go through the long-form ESRB rating process.