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Last of Us Part II may face ban in some Middle East countries. But why?

As the world prepares for the launch of The Last of Us Part II on June 19, people living in at least two Middle East countries may be out of luck.

The Last of Us Part II is unavailable in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), despite being available for pre-order in the U.S. and dozens of other countries. Reddit users first discovered the conspicuous omission earlier this month, which Digital Trends has since confirmed. As of this writing, Sony still hasn’t updated its store with pre-order options for those nations.

It’s unclear why the game isn’t available in those two countries, and Sony did not respond to a Digital Trends request for comment on the omission. Although both countries generally have more conservative views on entertainment than other regions where pre-orders are available, even graphic content doesn’t appear to be a disqualifying factor.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) recently gave The Last of Us Part II an M for Mature rating, saying that it features nudity and sexual content, along with gore and drug use. Other games with the same ratings and type of content are authorized for sale in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Last of Us Part II tells the story of protagonists Ellie and Joel five years after they made their way across a postapocalyptic U.S. to settle in Jackson, Wyoming. The game will focus on Ellie and her pursuit for justice in an increasingly violent world.

Is the story to blame?

IGN speculated that depicting Ellie, an openly gay character, engaging in a romantic relationship with another woman named Dina could be the reason for the exclusion. Gameplay footage released in 2018 showed Ellie passionately kissing another female character, and other leaks point to Ellie’s personal life playing a factor in the storyline.

In 2016, researchers at Franklin and Marshall College published the Global Barometer of Gay Rights (GBGR), a multiyear analysis of how countries around the world treat gay people. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia scored an F, a grade given to countries that persecute gay people.

While it’s certainly possible that local feelings towards homosexuality impacted The Last of Us Part IIthere’s also reason to believe they may not have played a role.

Players can still buy a variety of avatars from the game in PlayStation Stores in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and DLC from the first edition of The Last of Us featured Ellie kissing another woman. That was made available in both countries without any controversy.

For now, we don’t know what the game’s fate may be in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. And with Sony so far unwilling to discuss its status, it’s unclear whether it’ll skip over the Middle East or will make an appearance on launch day.

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Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology, video game, and entertainment journalist. He has been writing about the world of…
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