Update: As detailed in our original story below, an Associated Press report issued earlier this week suggested Saudi Arabia's General Commission for Audio-Visual Media planned to ban 47 popular videogames following the suicides of two children. According to people working in the area's games industry, and with the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media, this report is false.
"Most of the games were banned the moment they were launched in the country and some neighbouring countries for nudity, or excessive violence or other cultural topics (sometimes related to religion)," Nazih Fares, head of PR and marketing for Middle East esports operator Power League Gaming, tells us.
Prior to this, Fares worked on localisation for games such as Disney Infinity and Metal Gear Solid 5, among others. He has also worked with the National Media Council to establish the ratings board of the United Arab Emirates.
Fares talks more with gamesindustry.biz (opens in new tab): "Currently, the 'ban' of games has been quite rare, because GCAM—and other Middle East rating boards like National Media Council in the United Arab Emirates—actually work hand in hand with the game publishers either directly or via their official distributors working.
"For example, in the case of The Witcher 3—which I started working on its localisation—the game was localised in Arabic with subtitles and language, but also reducing the nudity and removing other cultural topics from the game that could be problematic (it was similar to the Japanese SKU of the game for example)."
Malek Teffaha, head of localisation at Ubisoft for the Middle East and North Africa, echoes Fares while telling GI.biz (opens in new tab) the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media has in fact shown leniency towards more controversial games in recent years.
"Ubisoft has not had any banned game in the past five years outside of Watch Dogs 2 and South Park, which is a testament to GCAM's improving nature," Teffaha tells GI.biz. "Far Cry 3 and Far Cry 4 were previously banned, but we got them reversed, and after Watch Dogs 2 we have actively worked to make sure our releases are per the guidelines, which is reflected in the fact that we have had no banning ever since Watch Dogs 2. (South Park we elected not to release it for various known reasons)."
Our original story follows, which we've since learned is inaccurate. The above is a formal correction. We have contacted the Associated Press on the matter.
The Associated Press reports (opens in new tab) Saudi Arabia will reportedly ban a list of videogames following the alleged suicide of two children. It is thought the children had been encouraged to do so after playing the 'Blue Whale' social media game.
As reported by the AP (opens in new tab) (via gamesindustry.biz (opens in new tab)), the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media has said it plans to ban 47 popular games—including Grand Theft Auto 5, The Witcher and Assassin's Creed 2. The AP says it plans to do so "for unspecified violations of rules and regulations."
The proposed sanctions are said to be in response to the deaths of a 13-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy who reportedly took their own lives after participating in the Blue Whale Challenge (opens in new tab)—a social media phenomenon that gives players 50 days to complete a series of tasks, capped by suicide. The AP however says the agency did not confirm this was responsible for the children's deaths.
We've reached out to the Saudi General Commission for Audio-Visual Media and will update as and when we hear back.
If you struggle with mental health, here are some useful contacts:
UK Samaritans: 116 123 (free to call from landlines and mobile)
US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
International Suicide Prevention Directory