Dead Rising's status in Germany clarified
Following yesterday's reports on this site and elsewhere that the German ratings board USK has "banned" Capcom's Xbox 360 zombie title Dead Rising in the region, a number of officials involved with the title and the ratings board have contacted GamesIndustry.biz to clarify the situation.
"The USK can not ban a game, we can just refuse to rate it if we fear it might be banned when launched into the market," Marek Kingelstein of USK explained. "But it can be sold, it can be advertised. Banning a game before launch would be censorship and censorship is forbidden by law."
However, Kingelstein went on to explain that the game could then be "banned" after its launch by the Bundespreuefstelle, a different regulatory body which can prohibit the promotion of a game - even to the extent where it becomes illegal to display boxes for the game in a store, and it must be sold "under the counter" to adults only.
The Bundespreufstelle (BPjM) does not, however, have the power to extend this restriction to any product which has been rated by the USK - meaning that in effect, not only does the USK's decision not to rate the product prevent it from being sold to minors or over mail order, but it also opens it to being banned from all promotional activity by the BPjM.
As a result of this system - and because allowing unrated content onto the Xbox 360 would actually break the built-in parental control systems - Microsoft refuses permission for any publisher to launch software on the Xbox 360 which is unrated.
"Dead Rising could be legally sold in Germany, but won't be published," explains Xbox platform manager Boris Schneider-Johne in a blog entry on the controversy, which he brought to the attention of GamesIndustry.biz. "Yeah, I know this sucks. Tell our politicians please."
"The situation of a game having no age rating at all is weird and not very customer- or publisher-friendly," he continued. "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," he concluded. "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."
So there you have it - Dead Rising is not "banned" in Germany, but by its action, the USK has effectively prevented the software from being sold in the region anyway. Whether you want to call that a legitimate distinction or simply a technicality or form of words, we leave entirely up to the reader.