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4/12/06

Walmart Designing Your Computer Games

In a great example about how major corporations use their power, Walmart now controls which pc games will be developed and how they will be designed.

"Do you buy your electronic games at Wal-Mart? Never mind, doesn't matter. The retail games you buy at GameStop or Best Buy or online are the games Wal-Mart has decided you can buy.

Publisher sales reps inform Wal-Mart buyers of games in development; the games' subjects, titles, artwork and packaging are vetted and sometimes vetoed by Wal-Mart. If Wal-Mart tells a top-end publisher it won't carry a certain game, the publisher kills that game. In short, every triple-A game sold at retail in North America is managed start to finish, top to bottom, with the publisher's gaze fixed squarely on Wal-Mart, and no other."
I understand business. I understand they want to meet the needs of their biggest buyers.

However, when a company gets as big as Walmart, they gain the ability to influence creativity or stifle it, whichever they please. The potential to abuse that power is there. If we suddenly get a Walmart CEO that believes we should not be playing games with girls who are heroes for example, can basically decide that no new games will be produced where females are heroes.

What if we get a Walmart CEO that secretly doesn't like black people? Or what if he decides that all violence in games is bad? or sexual content? It's not whether you agree with any of those things or not. Do you want the head of Walmart sensoring what games you can or cannot play?

Do you think I'm exaggerating here? Read on;

"Tom Gilleland, with the indie developer BeachWare (which has sold casino games through Wal-Mart), says, "Wal-Mart is working from a very strong position that enables them to dictate the content of their software product line.

They also have a very complicated situation in terms of public image, so they avoid controversial products. Thus, because of the company's influence, nowadays it is practically impossible to market a game that contains nudity. "We're not going to carry any software with any vulgarity or nudity - we're just not going to do it," Wal-Mart spokesman Tom Williams told Reuters in October 2002."
Now, I can understand Walmart choosing to not sell a game that has nudity in it. That is their choice and they have the right to choose. But again here we have a corporation who can decide what "vulgarity" is for us?

"Developers have produced "special Wal-Mart editions" of some games, such as Duke Nukem 3D and Blood, that delete the two principal bugaboos, nudity and excessive gore. Other developers just sanitize their games across the board. As a Ritual Entertainment developer remarked in an online chat promoting their Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K. 2 game (2000), "There's not much nudity other than statues. Wal-Mart is picky about that. When you have to decide between feeding your family or putting nudity in the game, you choose food."
Still think I'm exaggerating here?

The Rest of the Story.

More things that just piss me off

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