The Callisto Protocol gets cancelled in Japan after failing to receive a rating

Publisher Krafton has announced that The Callisto Protocol has been cancelled in Japan.

The Callisto Protocol is a survival horror game being developed by Striking Distance Studio and directed by Glen Schofield who acted as the executive producer on Dead Space while working at Visceral Games. The game was previously slated to release in Japan alongside other regions.

According to this tweet from the official Japanese The Callisto Protocol Twitter account, the game was unable to pass through its rating review from CERO (Computer Entertainment Rating Organization), the organization in charge of rating games for release in Japan. The tweet goes on to explain that if they made changes to the game to pass the rating review, they wouldn’t be able to deliver the experience players are expecting and have decided to cancel the game in Japan. They are also working to issue refunds for those who preordered the game.

According to GAME Watch, the game will not be available on any platform in Japan, including Steam. As of now, the game cannot be viewed on the Japanese PlayStation Store., but the Steam store page is still accessible from Japan.
[Update 2022/10/28 11:09 JST] The Steam page for the game is now inaccessible from Japan.

The circumstances around console game ratings in Japan

Like many other countries, console games in Japan go through a review process to receive an age rating before going on sale. This rating and age classification process is primarily handled by CERO. In addition to the process having to be carried out in Japan, there is also a rating fee.

However, download-only games can also use the IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) to receive their ratings. The IARC only handles download-only games and apps and was developed through a collaboration between North America’s ESRB, Europe’s PEGI, and other rating authorities in other countries and regions. IARC ratings can be obtained for free and have the added perk of being convertible to the appropriate ratings of participating rating organizations.

By receiving one IARC review, a game can be released across all member countries and regions. However, CERO is currently not affiliated with IARC, so games that want a CERO rating must go through CERO’s process separately.

The spread of IARC and cases where CERO reviews are necessary

The IARC also has agreements with platform holders which determine by country and region how the previously mentioned games that have obtained converted IARC ratings will be handled.

When it comes to Japan, Microsoft recognizes the Xbox versions of games that have an IARC rating and allows them to be sold digitally. Nintendo also recognizes games with an IARC rating under a certain age threshold and allows them to be distributed in Japan.

Sony Interactive Entertainment also started recognizing IARC ratings for download-only titles on Japan’s PlayStation Store in March of this year (related article). However, for games with a rating of 18+, they still ask for the game to receive a CERO rating. SIE stated that to protect children, they decided that it’s preferable to get a rating from CERO which specializes in the Japanese market and has a proven track record.

To reiterate, these IARC ratings are recognized for download-only titles, so games like The Callisto Protocol which would have been available as both a downloadable and retail release, would need to get a CERO rating.

Looking at trailers for The Callisto Protocol that have been released so far, we can see plenty of grotesque scenes such as body parts being severed. Additionally, the game has an IARC rating of 18+ on its Xbox Series X|S store page. They were likely expecting to pass the review with an 18+ rating (CERO:Z), but it seems that the game is too violent even for that age classification.

As an aside, Dead Space, which Schofield was previously involved with, is being remade by Electronic Arts subsidiary Motive Studio. The game is scheduled to release in Japan in January of 2023, but as of now has been removed from the PlayStation Store and the Steam version is inaccessible from Japan.

Dead Space also features plenty of grotesque scenes and the remake looks to be upping the gore over the original. Additionally, the original game wasn’t released in Japan. The game is planned to be reviewed by CERO, so there’s sure to be eyes following whether the game gets its release in Japan as planned.

Written by. Nick Mosier based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-10-27 10:06 JST)