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Column: The Wrong Type of Censorship – Ubisoft Alters “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” for Chinese Release

November 13, 2018

Last week, the triple-A video game publisher Ubisoft announced they will be opening their smash-hit tactical shooter game, “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege,” to China. They intend to expand their player base by giving access to Chinese players, but it comes with a price. Chinese law requires that many aspects of the game be censored for a “safe” viewing experience. This means out with the blood, skulls, and even slot machines. These requirements are not only absurd, but a huge detriment to the end product.

I find these Chinese regulations rather odd. Do they really think censoring blood and skulls, from a game where you shoot at people with guns, will make said game “appropriate” or “safe?” If we no longer be seeing blood or weaponry, Ubisoft might as well replace every weapon with its Nerf equivalent. I fail to see the logic behind this type of censorship.

Ubisoft has removed the slot machines on the “Yacht” map, in accordance with China’s strict gambling regulations. It’s hilarious and even embarrassing how Ubisoft will gladly remove the slot machines from the map, but not the real slot machines on the main menu.

“Rainbow Six Siege” contains what are called “alpha packs.” These purchasable items contain cosmetics – like weapon finishes and character headgear – each with different “rarities.” You can purchase these packs with in-game currency or real-world money. A year ago, Chinese law forced Blizzard Entertainment reveal the rarity percentages (chances of obtaining a high-value in-game item) of their “loot-boxes” in “Overwatch.” This also happened to the game publisher Valve, and their hit game “Counter-Strike,” which includes a “crate” system. “Rainbow Six” alpha packs are no different from “Overwatch” loot-boxes, and the lack of action towards them makes no sense.

Removing skulls and blood may sound like not a big deal, but this imagery has had a significant impact throughout the game’s development. There are countless cosmetics, which people have spent money on, that contain images of skulls or blood (not gratuitous gore – a few drops of blood). If Ubisoft has to remove or even alter these cosmetic items, the consumer will no longer own the product they initially payed for. The game’s most beloved operator, “Caveira,” has skull face paint on, which Ubisoft recently confirmed they are removing. The game will eventually lose its character if any more iconic aspects are removed. It seems as though Ubisoft does not care about the game’s legacy or heart. One of the earliest operation events, called “Operation Skull Rain,” has lost its impact and significance.

The fact that Ubisoft has no problem with enforcing the entire community to abide to Chinese law is insulting. There is no consideration for the game’s legacy or fan base. They might as well remove the words “Tom Clancy” from the title. Were he still with us, the American novelist would have no part of this mess.

On the game’s subreddit (/r/RainbowSix), there was a post with a link to Ubisoft’s censorship article, which had over 3,000 comments — most of them negative. The subreddit began to flood with posts from people who plan on uninstalling the game if the censorship goes through. The censorship article was stickied (pinned to the top of the forum), so Ubisoft could hear the feedback from the community. Recently, Ubisoft announced this years final event, “Operation Wind Bastion,” which replaced the stickied censorship post. There has been no response to the backlash from the community and Ubisoft is clearly trying to distract players with a new, exciting operation in hopes that we forget. It doesn’t help that the subreddit moderators stickied the new operation post instead of the censorship post.

The player count for “Rainbow Six Siege” will plummet if Ubisoft agrees with these Chinese requests.

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege launched on December 1st of 2015, with a very little player base. Ubisoft decided to continue the development of the game by adding more maps, characters, and events. By 2017, the game had over 40 million players, which is an incredible shift in player population over the years. It’s shame to witness Ubisoft throwing away all of their achievements and progress for additional players.

Hacking will increase in casual and ranked matches because Chinese players will download VPNs and gain access to servers they are not intended to play on. Ubisoft is a billion-dollar company who is very capable of releasing an exclusive client to China so the rest of the world can enjoy the game they initially purchased.

This is a dangerous precedent to set, and one of the industries largest publishers should be more responsible.

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