You may have noticed, if you have sufficiently sharp eyes and didn't blink at the wrong time, that the StarCraft stalwart Tychus J. Findlay is missing his usual cigar in the Heroes of the Storm "Enter the Nexus" trailer released earlier this week. It turns out there's a good reason for its absence: Heroes of the Storm has a "teen" rating, and in some regions that means there's no smoking allowed.
The question came up earlier this week on the Heroes of the Storm Reddit, where a user acknowledged that smoking is bad but said it isn't Blizzard's job to keep people from doing it. "You made Tychus and other characters in a special way, because it fits with the fantasy and the art," he complained. "Are you really gonna change that vision, because somebody has a problem with it?"
The answer is yes, but not because of public health concerns. "Heroes of the Storm is a multi-region game with a teen rating. There are a magnitude of guidelines we have to be aware of," BlizzDev_PIGonzales [probably not his real name] wrote in reply. "From a development standpoint we prioritize making Heroes and Skins as utilitarian as possible, if a single model can be used in all regions, that's a huge win for development."
In this particular case, Blizzard could either make two versions of the character, or just lose the cigar. It opted for the latter, for reasons PIGonzales made very clear.
"Making 2 versions means more data management, multiple duplicates of the asset (if we update an animation, it has to propagate to all versions) such as the the death ragdoll model, the facial animations, his morph into the Odin, and apply that process to every skin as well," he explained. "This mountain of work affects multiple departments and has to be addressed every time we'd adjust Tychus."
This actually isn't the first time a situation like this has come up. Skelethur doesn't appear in regions with restrictions on human remains, Blizzard has to create and maintain alternate versions of anything with skulls and blood, and "there was a desire to localize Gazlowe's license plate to every region," which apparently fell through because it represented "a ton of time spent on a small detail."
So there you have it. And before you bring it up, yes, StarCraft II itself is also rated T by the ESRB; and as Eurogamer noted in 2010, it was censored for the South Korean marketplace, with changes made including the removal of references to smoking.