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Off Topic: LittleBigPlanet

Posted October 21, 2008 by senocular

Chances are by now, you've probably heard of LittleBigPlanet. If not, a week or two ago, I would have been surprised. But given that most of the people I talked to at work about it haven't heard about it, I'm starting to think it's not as well known as I had once suspected. But maybe now that's changed with the latest news regarding its release.
First, if you are one of the few (?) people who don't know what LittleBigPlanet is, it's an upcoming PlayStation 3 video game featuring a character known as "Sackboy" (or "Sackgirl") which you control with up to 3 other friends running around in a side-scrolling, physics-dominated environment. But it doesn't end there. The beauty of this game is that you can also create levels yourself using a set of easy to use tools which you use as you play and, again, with up to 3 other friends. Once you've completed a creation, you can upload it to the PlayStation network for others to play. There are a number of LittleBigPlanet videos on YouTube you can check out to get the gist of the game. There is also:

Personally, I've been a huge fan of The Incredible Machine, and I can't tell you how long I've spent building PDA Game levels in Alien Hominid (on GameCube - does Alien Hominid HD on XBox 360 not have a level editor?) Put them together, drastically pump up the quality of graphics and you basically get LittleBigPlanet. Needless to say, I'm overly excited to get my hands on this game and, in fact, was one of the reasons I originally purchased a PlayStation 3 a year ago.

The game was *supposed* to be released today in the states. However, there was a recall causing a delay of up to 3 or so weeks in some areas. Luckily, here, the delay is only about a week. But as a result there has been a lot of ruckus in the world of LittleBigPlanet, and beyond.

The recall was the result of a complaint. Someone had sent a letter (which manifested itself as a forum post on the Sony PlayStation forums) to Sony indicating that they had noticed that in the background music of one of the levels, scripture from the Qur'an had been used in the lyrics and, according to the poster, this was considered very offensive to have these phrases mixed with music. A request was made to create an online patch to remove the content for existing copies of the game and to make sure it isn't contained within future shipments. Note: the poster did NOT request a recall, even though that's what Sony ended up doing. The full text can be read in the original forum thread including what song it was and the passages it contained.

Naturally I was upset when I first heard this news. In fact I called my local gaming retailer for more information. After all, they already had the games in hand. They just had to wait until the official release date to actually sell them. Of course the two gentlemen I talked to had no idea what was going on and even suggested a recall was not likely since it was so close to release. One guy, I imagine the manager, even got a little defensive when I suggested he give me a copy anyway. Already upset with their ignorance, I decided to give it up and hang up. A few minutes later, I received an automated call from said retailer informing me the release has been pushed back, confirming my suspicions.

I should mention that LittleBigPlanet is one of the most anticipated games of the year for the PlayStation, if not any system (again, depending on who you talk to since I, myself, have encountered gamers who never heard of it). Delaying such a game so close to release is sure to cause some hurt feelings among gamers - and that is exactly what happened. I've even read of a GameStop employee who said about 2 people per hour had been calling in canceling their pre-orders on the day of the announcement.

Why are people upset? Well, again, this was a highly anticipated release, and one that has been delayed before. I even had a day off of work today to play it, as was the case with others as well. What good is that now? No one like the rug being pulled out from under them, which is exactly what happened here. But maybe more importantly is why the recall happened. Many are insulted that such measures were taken over this issue saying that if any other religion was involved, the reactions would have been different. And to the credit of the individual who originally took offense, a patch was suggested in favor of a full recall. Why did Sony take the extra step with a recall. Was it because the complaint came from a Muslim?

For Sony, this also cost a suspected millions of dollars from already having discs pressed and ready for retail and then having them recalled. So why did they go so far for this issue? After I thought about it a while, I came up with two conclusions.

First, this is a HUGE game for Sony and the PlayStation 3. They need this game to be successful (it's a system seller) since they're nowhere near as dominant in the market as they were in the PlayStation 2 days. In fact, they're currently last in the game behind both Microsoft with their XBox 360 and Nintendo with their wildly successful Wii console. They need to make sure this game is of the best quality, and fully satisfactory among all demographics. With an E for Everyone rating, the game needs to be suitable for everyone and this means making sure no one takes offense or disagrees with any of its content (which could be a tiresome task as user-generated content starts rolling in). Going with the recall means that Sony is making sure that the game is as clean as it can be coming out of the gates. Not to mention that a patch is usually distributed through the internet which makes it unlikely for unconnected consoles to receive it. The recall will account for that (are we to believe Muslim gamers are less likely to be connected?)

Secondly, as they say, no publicity is bad publicity. What Sony is getting with this recall is a lot of publicity. And we're not just talking game publicity here, we're also talking religious publicity, and Muslim, at that. This means the story will be picked up by many more outlets than if the game was delayed for any other scenario such as time needed to polish some levels or something like that. We're talking about a big company's reaction to religious content in a video game and offense taken by individuals as a result of that content. In fact, at first, I didn't believe it would go around as much as it did. The fact that it has makes me more supportive of Sony in their decision. They've just gotten a lot of attention placed on their new "killer app" of a game, and given the reviews of LittleBigPlanet already out there, this is exactly what they need (attention) to be assured of a success. And for all those little babies out there who canceled their pre-orders. Well, they'll have to get the game eventually since it's just that good (so I hear).

So in the end, am I upset? You betcha! But I'm starting to realize that I think Sony knew what they were getting into as a result of this decision and they were fully prepared to take the hit, both financially, and perceptually, so that they can be put in the media's eye. At any rate, I'm still very excited about the release and can't wait to get my hands on the game to make something crazy like this when it finally does come out. I am a little upset I won't initially have a full day to myself to play with it, though.