LittleBigResistance: Delay of Sackboy
LittleBigResistance: Delay of Sackboy

The recent controversy surrounding Sony’s decision to delay the release of LittleBigPlanet, over a Qur’an reference made in one of the tracks, has many gamers flexing their memory muscle in an attempt to illustrate a double standard.

The belief is that Sony’s 2006 decision to essentially ignore the Church of England’s request asking for the removal of the Manchester Cathedral from their Resistance: Fall of man game, paired with the company’s recent willingness to comply to the perceived wishes of a Muslim community, demonstrates favoritism.

Several prime examples appear as comments appended to Kotaku’s recent post regarding the recall. Here are excerpts from a few of my favorites:

“Where’s the balls you had when it came to standing up to the Church of England, Sony?? Fuck you and your double standard, you bastards.” – Lachoy

“Sony, clearly, not willing to lift a finger to defend Western values or preserve our sensibilities, but willing to bend over backward to appease Islamic twits. They take our market for granted.” – rateoforange

To all those bringing up the Church of Manchester incident as a valid analogy: where the fuck have you been for the past 15 years? Stop thinking in absolute terms: “Christians are OK with it, so Muslims should be too.” Yes, there is a double standard here, and no, it’s not the end of the world. – Antiterra

This got me thinking about the two scenarios from a pure business standpoint. Armed with only an opinion, my belief is that Sony isn’t demonstrating favoritism, rather they are making what they believe to be sound business decisions based on a bottom line mentality.

While opinions are nice, I realized that any level of convincing was going to require more than a hunch. I needed proof that the cost of a potential Cathedral replacement would drastically exceed those associated with the recent LittleBigPlanet delay.

Our own Dan Landis, who followed the 2006 Cathedral incident closer than I, was quick to point out one glaring difference: the Church’s complaint was brought to the attention of Sony after the game had already been released for several months. However, for the sake of illustrating my point, we’ll assume both concerns were voiced prior to each game’s release.

The first thing I wanted to figure out was how much it would cost for a team of developers, in terms of salary, to make a new level to replace the Cathedral, had Sony decided to pull it from the game. In order to do that, I needed a rough development time frame. The best answer I found appeared in a June 2006 GameSpot interview with Insomniac CEO, Ted Price.

GameSpot: How long has the game been in development?

Ted Price: We’ve been in production on Resistance: Fall of Man for several months now and were in preproduction for a long time before that. How’s that for a vague answer?

Alright Ted, I’ll go with it. Let’s assume “several months” adds up to six, and “a long time before that” represents about two years. Combine those numbers with the six months time separating the interview and the game’s release and you get three years.

Next, I needed to get some gaming related salary information. I came across a website which outlined ballpark salaries for the most common gaming industry positions utilizing data submitted via a Game Makers Salary Survey. Insomniac’s official site lists the company at one hundred and eighty plus employees strong, so I took a reasonable chunk of that head count and created decent sized team with the basic structure and pay scale outlined in the survey.

The estimate I reached for one month of development time, from a pure salary perspective, totaled $250,000. Taking that number and multiplying it by three years time adds up to $9 million in total cost. Whether this number is accurate or not, it is in line with the quote given by Epic VP, Mark Rein, in a 2007 Wired Game|Life interview regarding the estimated cost to produce Gears of War.

“We spent less than $10 million to make Gears of War. Somewhere between nine and ten million dollars.”

Granted, this may be a low estimate, but it will serve its purpose. Compiling everything I gathered, the hypothetical Resistance replacement level would cost $500,000 with a two month cap on development time.

Assuming the Cathedral itself took about the same time to create, that would be a total loss of $1 million to appease the Church of England. Therefore, had the request been made one week prior to the game’s release, it’s my belief, based on the business reality outlined above, that the change would not have been made.

LittleBigPlanet’s delay consists of an audio track modification, recalled product, and a reprint of the game. Using a baseline of one million copies, at a printing rate of 10 cents per unit (estimated and discounted based on a rate offered to consumers for a similar service), brings the total cost for reprinting to $100,000. Adding a generous amount for product recall and audio rework yields a result less than one-fifth the amount predicted for Resistance.

So while the LittleBigPlanet delay is complex in its own right, I hope the information provided here helps at least a few gamers consider business logic, not favoritism, as a deciding factor.

Afterthought: Do you think that Sony is at fault for playing favorites here, or do you think the entire thing is getting blow out of proportion? Does the game’s delay effect your decision to buy/not buy the game? Share your thoughts below.


  1. I agree, Chad. Creating something to go instead of a CATHEDRAL is obviously going to make Sony less rich then removing a tiny song from an unreleased game.

  2. Thanks for the comment LBP.

    The article documents the potential costs associated with both solutions, had each been put into action by Sony, in an attempt to put an end to the double standard accusations.

    Sony is a business like any other. If they can spin their business decisions in a more personal way, they likely will, but if they are faced with an expense they are not willing to pay, they will ultimately find a way to justify their actions.

    In other words, it’s my belief that Sony isn’t making personal decisions with the intention of singling out specific religions or beliefs. I think it is much more about dollars and cents than it is gentiles and gents.

  3. just so you know you dont need permission to show the Cathedral church in anything its a public building their really isnt anything special about it a buildings just a building.

  4. The reason Sony listened to the Muslims and not The Church of England is that they weren’t expecting to get jihadded by a bunch of crazy vicars.

  5. I personally believe this is a bad business decision. It’s not offensive to the majority of Muslims – Koranic references are within a whole host of Islamic music. Appeasing one forum member to recall a whole game is far too costly.

    Bringing attention to it, angering a bunch of gamers, and costing a bomb to recall copies from all over the world – especially considering the cost of producing Blu-rays and then shipping them back again – I think the costs are too much.

    Especially considering they could have just agreed with Media Molecule and patched the game – it is an Online game, which really needs online to prosper – so if people don’t have internet, they shouldn’t be playing LittleBigPlanet. Therefore, the majority of individuals would get the patch to remove the song. I feel that the costs over recalling compared to simply patching are far too high.

    Other factors would include launch parties in London begining on Oct 24th – where they won’t have the game to sell to customers. Really the percieved backslash was much more severe than the reality. It puts a bad image of Muslims as easily offended – when really, that’s only the minority.

  6. Good or bad Patrick, it is their decision to make as a company. I am simply addressing the double standard complaints being voiced by gamers who are comparing this delay to the lack of action on the part of Sony when handling the Church of England complaint in 2006.

  7. The original person (snake08) i think, purely just wanted a patch for it, but Sony decided to reprint and postpone the release.

    I have read several articles and they do state that the lyrics in the content made by MM was not in an offensive manner. IMO they should of just released an online patch, better business plan! WAY cheaper, doesn’t slow down release… WIN WIN. BUT ‘Sackboy’ for Sony is what ‘Mario’ is for Nintendo, so would they want to risk a global merchandise over a one week late, $100k+ loss??

  8. I think this is a straight up PR move. The Church of England thing was not something that could have stirred much in the news.

    However, the whole idea of the news stirring up sh*t as they usually do with sensationalist headlines claiming LBP is anti-islam and insinuating Media Molecule and Sony are as well is something Sony would rather avoid.

    This is not about one Muslim gamer being over-sensitive but about avoiding unneccessary bad press for a game that may well be the biggest PS3 game this generation.

    Truth be told, some Muslims may have gotten offended but most would not. In these situations, the news media often blow things out of proportion. Gamers need to just relax and chill.

  9. Lyrics referring to the Qur’an are taken at face value. Meaning they’re religious in context and therefore would be highly offensive to a majority of the Muslim community. Muslims believe that any quotations of religious material, be it the Qur’an, Torah, or Bible, are inappropriate. The opposite is easily so for the Church of England. The Muslim belief in this is sacred, and has been held and upheld for centuries. Any company progressive enough to identify this and take steps to correct it shows a greater understanding of world views than the clouded thinking of average Joe Americans.

    I should remind you that the Church of England demanded the game be removed from store shelves, an apology, and a substantial donation to the church. Financial reasons aside, their reasoning was that the depiction of the Cathedral was tantamount to ‘desecration’.

    Simply put, the quotations from the Qur’an are fundamentally religious and the response would come from a fundamental religious standpoint. The response to the Church of England scandal was “give us lots of money and we’ll change our stance on it.”

    To claim this is double standards is to define just how ignorant you are, and perhaps more compassion and understanding towards our Muslim community would easily close this gap. All those spouting hate because your game was delayed a week need to seriously look inside and determine just what separates you from primal apes. Take steps to rectify it because my guess is it isn’t very much.

  10. Good on y Kris, especially about the learning of muslim community! People think such bad things about muslims, but if you actually went to a place and met them they are so nice. like in Malaysia, they were so friendly, help you so much, just such nice people… it’s just always the minority crazies that spoil it!

  11. I wouldn’t call it a smart business decision. The guy who started this whole thing asked for a patch. That should have been enough. Now it will probably cause Sony to lose any profit from LittleBigPlanet. What does it cost to make one copy of a PS3 game on a Blu-ray disc? How many copies did Sony already make? I say someone at Sony made a horrible decision.

    And now I’m reading this guy who started this is wrong if you talk to most Muslims. Maybe these companies need to create boards for religions and discuss what really is acceptable. To me a small minority of Muslims cause all the problems for the rest of them. There are Jewish and Christian followers who are against a lot that goes on in games and other media. Why aren’t companies like Sony bending over backward to appease them too?

  12. “Lyrics referring to the Qur’an are taken at face value. Meaning they’re religious in context and therefore would be highly offensive to a majority of the Muslim community. Muslims believe that any quotations of religious material, be it the Qur’an, Torah, or Bible, are inappropriate.”

    Kris – If this is true why can I buy the actual song from Amazon? Answer that one. Is that considered wrong by Muslims too? If so why is it still being sold?

  13. It seems to me the biggest difference here that everyone seems to forget is the target audience these games have. LittleBigPlanet is targeted to all ages, while Ressistance is an “adult” game. It makes sense to remove something with religious content from a game targeted towards younger people than it does to remove a church (which is just a building, and adds no religious content to the game) from a game targeted towards adult’s/young adults.

  14. I don’t agree at all with your estimation of the cost of reprinting and recalling lbp. What about the shipment costs and workers costs? Plus, where did you get the 10 cents figure? That link (or was it an advertisement?!) says 30 cents for a dvd, and bluray is bound to cost at least 50 cents.

    I think you have to remember that muslims weren’t outraged by this, it was one person and sony decided to do this themselves. The damage is already done in muslim eyes, copies already exist, hell the story itself is generating more offense than the game would have. I can’t believe people argue that it’s the right thing to do though, it’s a complete waste of money to do this, and I’m really really offended that people can be offended by music in this way.

  15. i am tired of every company bowing down to islam. the only form of racism that is accepted is the bashing of christ.The whole world backs off when some cleric says anything yet they can’t stand up to terrorists and call them out. its a game. maybe we christians should complain and become violent then maybe the bill mahers of the world will stop hating on christianity. good grief

  16. It has nothing to do with money, it has nothing to do with favoritism… Let me give you the low down..

    If you insult a Muslims faith, he WILL be insulted, he will boycott you and not think twice about .. Had that game been released NO ONE in the middle east and anywhere in the world who was muslim would have purchased it. That’s a fact, they feel strongly for their book, EVERYONE of them does whether they don’t practice their religion or they do. There’s no insulting the book and they wont buy it.

    Christians on the other hand on a vast majority would STILL buy it had it been insulting to their religion.. The writer gave a perfect example with resistence fall of man… how many of us christians still bought it … How many of us watch the simpsons mock christianity and not care how many of us idolize family guy’s jesus and god anticks…. ITS OUR FAULT NOT THEIRS..corporations don’t care about our beliefs they know we’ll buy it anyway even if it’s shooting up a church, YOU EVER SEE RESIDENT EvIL SCENE”S IN A MOSQUE?…Didn’t think so

    Sony made a choice based on they know that people would still buy resistence and companies will STILL be doing things like this , yet no one touches the muslim world and for that EVEN I give them props, they protect their faith from anyone, and even made sony recall their game because of that…

  17. Of course it is a business decision. But the rationale behind that business decision is that Sony is afraid of muslims, but couldn’t be less bothered about the Church of England.

    When Sony are afraid someone will hurt them or their business, they will be very sensitive to any concerns that MIGHT be raised around their games. If they don’t feel threatned they won’t offer even a token apology, much less spend money on appeasement.

    So no, “favoritism” is clearly the wrong word. But why Sony are afraid of the highly evolved and peaceful Muslim community is beyond me. The artist of the song, Toumani Diabaté, seems to have suffered no harm for performing this song.

    Then again, let’s hope Sony’s actions doesn’t lead to this man getting in some very real trouble from islamistic militants eager to get some publicity…