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The Callisto Protocol Has Just Been Canceled In Japan

Hands-on previews for "The Callisto Protocol" are out, and critics are raving about the upcoming sci-fi horror game from the creator of the original "Dead Space." Soon, players everywhere will be able to delve into its gruesome world — well, almost everywhere. Unfortunately, on October 26, 2022, developer Striking Distance Studios announced that "The Callisto Protocol" would not release in Japan, as initially intended. 

In a tweet posted by "The Callisto Protocol" account for Japan, Striking Distance Studios explained why the game would be discontinued in the country. The original message was in Japanese, but fans were quick to offer translations for English readers. The team said they could not get "The Callisto Protocol" to be rated by CERO, a requirement for a game to be released in Japan, without fundamentally altering the player experience. 

The announcement has, of course, been met with disappointment from fans in Japan — with some even asking the developers to leave in Japanese subtitles so they can still play international versions. Still, while it's far from the first time a game has been forced to change key aspects to see an international release, it's a blow to both those awaiting the title and Striking Distance Studios.

Here's why CERO is passing on "The Callisto Protocol" in Japan.

Censorship, the CERO, and The Callisto Protocol

Japan has a video game ratings board called CERO, which stands for Computer Entertainment Rating Organization. It essentially serves as the Japanese equivalent of the ESRB in the U.S. However, CERO has stricter rules about what cannot be included in video games. The organization's Code of Ethics page states that it can ban any "expression" of violence if it depicts an "extremely cruel impression." 

While there's no shortage of gruesome depictions of gore and horror in "The Callisto Protocol," there have been instances where things not explicitly listed in the Code of Ethics have gotten a game in trouble with CERO too. This was the reason why "Resident Evil Village" was less violent in Japan, reworking itself to release in the market. The actual banning of games is rare in Japan, as most developers will instead opt to change or censor certain aspects rather than not release the game in the country at all. 

While "The Callisto Protocol" wasn't outright banned in Japan and could still be censored for a later release, Striking Distance Studios believes that the reworks required would significantly detract from the player experience. However, at least the company did add at the end of its tweet (translated) that refunds would be issued to fans who had already pre-ordered the Japanese version of the game.