Developer Ubisoft has caused controversy by announcing upcoming changes to its game Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The game was released in 2015 to generally positive reviews, and has since been regularly updated with DLC and expansion packs. According to an Ubisoft blog post, the latest round of updates mean that the new version of the game will be “a single, global version” that has been streamlined in order to increase efficiency on the development side.
That in itself would not be a problem, but debate has arisen over the decision to change graphics and background elements which include references to gambling, sex, and violence. As well as changes to UI elements like the icons for melee, death, and friendly fire, Ubisoft has opted to remove background graphical elements such as slot machines, skull graffiti, blood spray, and a neon sign of a woman dancing. They say that these updates do not change the core of the game, and that the new version of Rainbow Six Siege will remain “true to its roots,” but that removing the adult graphical elements was necessary to make sure that the game is aligned with global regulations.
If the game had originally been released without these graphical elements, it is likely that no one would have minded. But by including the elements for several years and then removing them, Ubisoft has angered fans of the game who accuse them of censorship. In particular, the removal of slot machines seems hypocritical given that there is an in-game loot box system of Alpha Packs, which is similar to gambling in that players put down real money for a randomized reward.
Ubisoft has stated that the changes are due to “expansion into Asian territories”, but fans have speculated on Reddit that the modifications are due specifically to the company’s aim at the Chinese market. In Chinese culture, depictions of skulls and skeletons are taboo as they are associated with a direct representation of death, and although it is not actually forbidden to show a skull or skeleton in a game, it is usually avoided. There are rules forbidding the promotion of gambling in China, so it seems likely that the update is to make sure that the game doesn’t get banned in China, where there is a huge potential audience.
The full update has not been released yet so it remains to be seen just how significant the changes will be in the long run.