Earlier this week, an Associated Press report claimed that the Saudi Arabian government banned 47 video games following allegations that two children were driven to kill themselves after playing an online game.
It has since come to light that the news story was almost entirely false, and multiple people working in the region's games industry and with the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media (GCAM) told GamesIndustry.biz that the group took no such action.
Although the games in question are indeed restricted from sale in the region, they were not banned collectively at the same time, and not in response to the alleged suicides.
"Currently, the 'ban' of games has been quite rare, because GCAM -- and other Middle East rating boards like National Media Council in the United Arab Emirates -- actually work hand in hand with the game publishers either directly or via their official distributors," said Nazih Fares, a localisation expert for Saudi Arabia, and one of the first to begin working in the region.
"For example, in the case of The Witcher 3 -- which I started working on its localisation -- the game was localised in Arabic with subtitles and language, but also reducing the nudity and removing other cultural topics from the game that could be problematic (it was similar to the Japanese SKU of the game for example)."
Malek Teffaha, the head of localisation at Ubisoft for the Middle East and North Africa, added that GCAM was actually expressing more leniency in recent years, even unbanning previously censored games.
"Ubisoft has not had any banned game in the past 5 years outside of Watch Dogs 2 and South Park, which is a testament to GCAM's improving nature," he told GamesIndustry.biz
"Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 were previously banned, but we got them reversed, and after Watch Dogs 2 we have actively worked to make sure our releases are per the guidelines, which is reflected in the fact that we have had no banning ever since Watch Dogs 2. (South Park we elected not to release it for various known reasons)."
GamesIndustry.biz reported on this story as it first appeared and would like to make a formal correction. We accept that the information provided through the Associated Press was false, and the article we published was inaccurate.
The Associated Press has failed to respond to our inquiries.
Original Story (18/07/18): The Saudi Arabian government has announced it will ban a list of nearly 50 video games following allegations that two children were driven to kill themselves after playing an online game.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said on Monday it was banning 47 games for "unspecified violations of rules and regulations".
Included in the list of banned games is Grand Theft Auto V, Assassin's Creed 2, and The Witcher.
The ban materialised following the death of a 13-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy who reportedly killed themselves after playing the enigmatic social media game Blue Whale, although the agency did not confirm it as the inciting incident.
Also known as the Blue Whale Challenge, it's more a form of cyberbullying than it is a video game, where players are given a series of tasks to complete, with suicide as the gruesome denouement.
GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media for comment and is awaiting response.