Sony Chickens Out with 'Little Big Planet' Delay
Originally slated for release earlier this month, "Little Big Planet" should have already been tearing up the charts, but Sony pushed back the release of what could be its biggest hit all year because the soundtrack contained a song that quoted lines from the Koran. Sony's official statement: "During the review process prior to the release of LittleBigPlanet, it has been brought to our attention that one of the background music tracks licensed from a record label for use in the game contains two expressions that can be found in the Qur'an. We have taken immediate action to rectify this and we sincerely apologise for any offence that this may have caused."
The issue was brought to their attention by a single forum poster, who wrote on the Sony community boards ""While playing your latest game, LittleBigPlanet, in the first level of the third world in the game (titled 'Swinging Safari'), I have noticed something strange in the lyrics of the music track of the level. When I listened carefully, I was surprised to hear some very familiar Arabic words from the Quran .... We Muslims consider the mixing of music and words from our Holy Quran deeply offending ... We hope you would remove that track from the game immediately via an online patch, and make sure that all future shipments of the game disk do not contain it."
And as can be seen, Sony jumped to comply -- not merely issuing an online patch, but committing to a costly global recall to avoid bad press. Irate fans have noted that there isn't actually a blanket restriction on including lines from the Koran in music (MTV's Multiplayer blog did an enlightening interview with the artist who originally recorded the music here. Moreover, critics noted that Sony did not respond similarly to complaints from the Anglican Church when Manchester Cathedral was depicted as a multiplayer map in "Resistance: Fall of Man," one of the company's flagship titles.
It's curious that Sony would react so strongly to an anonymous user's request, especially given the nature of LBP. The game's major draw is the wide range of tools it provides users to create their own content -- some of which undoubtedly will be more offensive than sampling the Koran in a musical score. That's the nature of user-generated content tools -- some people use them to create art, and some people use them as they would a Sharpie and a bathroom stall door.
If Sony -- or indeed any marketer -- doesn't have the stomach to stand up to a bit of criticism, then it shouldn't be playing with user-generated content. As user-generated content in games moves from the relatively underground modding community and into more mainstream titles like Spore and LBP, and as it becomes a more common tool for marketers to encourage their brand loyalists to express themselves, companies are going to have to show a little backbone in the face of easily offended critics.