Don't mess with the Quran. Seems easy enough advice to follow, right? For some game developers, this was a lesson learned the hard way, resulting in that dreaded disaster known as a recall. See, recalls arent just for tainted medicine and toys that give kids lead poisoning. Game publishers also live in fear of being forced, either by law or public outcry, to request every copy of their product back in a large-scale recall. And the end result--the callous obliteration of every reclaimed disc--has got to suck for morale and sales alike.
The information you're about to consume serves as a cautionary tale for future game publishers: The Muslim community would largely prefer for you to leave their religion out of it, and definitely--DEFINITELY--don't include kiddie porn on your game disc.
Too Human / X-Men Destiny
The most recent business catastrophe was the debacle between Silicon Knights and Epic Games. In 2007, a disgruntled Silicon Knights sued Epic, claiming that the Gears of War maker had failed to provide a working game engine, leading to Knights suffering considerable losses. Their suit insinuated that Epic had neglected to deliver the Unreal Engine 3 on time and with the proper instructions. Not ones to take any guff, Epic countersued--and the whole thing blew up in Silicon Knights' face.
The courts ruled that Epic Games had defeated Silicon Knights claim and won the countersuit, which revealed some rather scandalous thievery. The presiding judge stated that Silicon Knights had repeatedly and deliberately copied significant portions of Epic Games' code to lay the foundation for their own game engine. As part of the punishment for their plagiarism, Silicon Knights was forced to gut all traces of the Unreal Engine from their three in-development titles, and recall two already-released games: Too Human and X-Men Destiny. Oh yeah, and fork over a cool $9 million in damages to Epic. Ouch.
The Quran, Islams primary religious text, can be a bit of a touchy subject. Many Muslims treat the Qurans contents with such reverence that any misuse of its lines is blasphemy punishable by death. So vehement are their beliefs that the presence of a mere two lines--still in the original Arabic--in a soundtrack is enough to delay the release of a much-anticipated franchise.
Just before Media Molecules lighthearted PS3 platformer LittleBigPlanet was to be sold to the public, Sony issued a global recall from retailers and pushed back the games release (though some copies still made it out the door). What spurred the drastic decision was the inclusion of a song in the games Singing Safari level, which included two phrases from the Quran. Rather than risk offending anyone, Sony yanked all copies from shelves and replaced them with a new disc sans the sacrilegious song.
The Guy Game
If you own a copy of The Guy Game, guess what: You have bad taste in games. And youre in possession of illegal pornography involving a minor. The entire premise of this chauvinistic quiz game was to participate in a faux spring break game show involving bikini-clad babes, with the promise of topless nudity should you get enough questions right. Less of a proper game and more of an attempt to ensnare male gamers who think primarily with their wang, it was quickly forgotten after release.
Things got a little more complicated when, four months later, it was revealed (via lawsuit) that one of the contestants who bared her breasts was 17 at the time of filming. That meant that Top Heavy Studios had technically put out a game containing underage nudity--which, as you might imagine, is not something you want to do. That put the kibosh on all sales of the game, not that they were great to being with.
LEGO Lord of the Rings
Imagine popping open a brand-new $50 game, only to find your purchase labeled DEMO DISC / NOT FOR SALE. How do you react? Do you fly into a rage at having paid full price for a fragment of a game? Is it like a delightful little secret between you and the retailer who wrongly sold it to you? Or do you barely even look at it before popping it into your console? These and many more responses mustve transpired this past November, when LEGO Lord of the Rings hit store shelves.
It was swiftly discovered that some copies of the Xbox 360 disc had been mistakenly marked as demos, even though they contained the full game. Warner Bros. Interactive issued a minor recall straight away, but the relatively harmless nature of this printing goof made it more of a formality than a necessity. It just goes to show that you should always try testing a disc out before you flip out at the clerk who sold it to you.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Ah, the good ol Hot Coffee scandal. If youre not familiar with one of the most controversial screw-ups in all of gaming, heres the short version: When Rockstar Games released San Andreas, it contained within its source code an explicit sex scene that could be accessed via user-made hack. But once the media got wind of this wholly unarousing minigame, which depicted CJ awkwardly humping his polygonal girlfriend, the ESRB flipped its rating from M to Adults Only and a full-scale recall was required.
Its a topic thats been beaten to death, but well rehash it again anyway: Getting up-in-arms over the equivalent of lewd stick-figure animations is nuts, when the entire game revolves around gang-on-gang violence across countless murders and crimes. And heres a news flash, parents: If your child is capable enough to download, install, and run a mod to unlock a sex scene in the M-rated game you bought for them, theyve already seen more porn than you can possibly fathom.
Mario Party 8
If you enjoy making fun of the disabled, its highly likely--no, certain--that you are a horrible human being. Quit it. Anyways, bad words have a habit of meaning different things in different nations. In America, saying someones a spaz or saying theyre spastic is the equivalent of calling them a klutz. In the UK, its as offensive as calling someone a retard. But this may not be common knowledge for those individuals tasked with localizing Mario Party games, even after Ubisoft's Mind Quiz game on the DS had made a similar mistake weeks before Mario Party 8 was released.
Such translation mishaps can even drag down a mascot as innocent as Mario: His second-to-last Party on the Wii included a Kamek uttering the line Turn the train spastic! Make this ticket tragic! Upon realizing its mistake, Nintendo acted to revoke all UK copies of the game, trying to keep the rude bit under wraps by chalking the recall up to an assembly error. The distasteful word was eventually replaced with erratic, but not before a little controversy about Marios insensitivity party circled through the UK.
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Would you kick around a soccer ball that had a picture of your face on it? No, you wouldnt. Nor would you feel comfortable playing footie with a ball bearing your mothers visage. And you definitely, definitely wouldnt punt around a sphere emblazoned with a symbol representative of your own god. That last one became a bit of a problem for Muslim gamers trying to enjoy EA Sports 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
One of the games unlockables was a suite of soccer balls styled after the flags of the participating nations. The national flags of Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan both include the Shahada, an Islamic symbol that incorporates Allahs name. When said flags become the texture for a soccer ball, it essentially means that kicking the ball downfield becomes an act of conceivable blasphemy. In response to the religious faux pas, EA removed the profane balls from the game via a patch and purged it from all future printings of the game.
Metroid: Other M
If youve ever experienced it, then you know getting completely stuck in a game due to a bug is infuriating. Metroid: Other M included one such fun-ruining error in its code--and the worst part was, you wouldnt even know you triggered the progress-halting glitch until it was far too late. Imagine (unless you lived through it yourself, in which case were sorry) wandering around aimlessly in search of something, anything, all because the path to advancement was forever blocked by a bug.
If players backtracked during a certain segment of the Pyrosphere, choosing to return to the location of the Ice Beam after slaying a particular spiked enemy, a door that Samus encounters much later down the line would refuse to open. Seeing as the game couldnt be patched, Nintendo recalled and replaced Japanese retail copies and told afflicted gamers to mail in their saves on an SD card to fix the corrupted file. It was either that, or start the game over from the beginning. Neither sounds like a winning solution.
As we now know, treating the words in the Quran as a potential source for game content isn't the best of ideas. But what if you knew it was in poor taste and did it anyway? Thats the regrettable path taken by Microsoft Game Studios, when they released 3D fighter Kakuto Chojin knowing full well that it contained material that some might find highly offensive to their religion.
Similar to the LittleBigPlanet fiasco, the upsetting item was a song in the games soundtrack containing various passages from the Quran being chanted in the background. Though there was enough time to make a switch in shipments to remove the song, the game was pushed out the door anyway with the hopes that the song would go unnoticed. When that clearly wasnt the case, Microsoft ordered a recall in 2003--and to add insult to injury, the games rejection by critics and weak sales meant it wasnt even worth reissuing a new version with the Love/Hate Chant song removed.
Dont recall it a comeback
Those are some of the best examples that future game publishers could stand to learn from, in the hopes that they would avoid the potential for a recall themselves. Do you know of the complex backstories behind any game recalls that didnt make this list? Let us know in the comments, because sharing is caring and recall is freefall. Sorry--we shouldnt have gone for that one.
For more fun features, check out gaming's most ridiculous alternate fighting costumes and the 10 lies Far Cry 3 tells us about normal people in extreme situations.