Violent video games are not fairing well in countries around the world. The number of locales around the world wanting to ban them completely is growing, and that could have a chilling effect on the industry as a whole if there aren’t enough markets to sell their products in.
GameIndustry.biz (registration required) reported on March 22nd that Switzerland’s parliament has passed a law that could lead to the outright ban of violent video games in the country. The initial wording that was proposed said that any game that “requires cruel acts of violence against humans and human-like creatures for in-game success” is what went before the governing body and passed. All that now has to be worked out is the exact wording of how the law will read. While this doesn’t finalize it as of yet, citizens of the country are allowed to challenge any new law if they can show sufficient opposition to it.
Switzerland joins the likes of Germany, Venezuela and Australia as countries that no longer want violent video games being sold in their country. While you can of course make the argument that the final decision should be in the hands of consumers — which I certainly think is the proper method — that doesn’t change the fact that these bans have, or are about to, happened. And while none of these markets are exactly huge, when you add enough of them together, it does add up to a goodly amount of perspective consumers.
At what point will the video game companies have to weigh the idea of making a violent game because there aren’t enough place to sell it? Sure games like Modern Warfare 2 will still be made, but will companies still be willing to take a risk on smaller, unproven titles where every unit sold counts? We could end up seeing a de facto censoring of video games in every country as companies have to weigh these options: “Do we make this new violent video game we can only sell in certain countries, or do we make this game which isn’t violent and we can sell everywhere in the world?”
While I think we are still a ways away from this happening on a wide scale, if a country such as the United Kingdom or Japan was to suddenly decide such a thing (the UK seems more likely than Japan), then we would be facing a problem that might even bring the biggest titles into question.
What can be done about this? Well, unless you live in those countries, not much, but if you hear of your country discussing the same kind of legislation, than you will have to contact your politicians and voice your displeasure. Unfortunately this all may seem very disjointed right now, but when you consider the global sales impact on a game company, you start to see we are all actually in the same boat.