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Final Fantasy 16 has been banned in Saudi Arabia
Square Enix was “unwilling” to make required changes, ratings board claims
Final Fantasy 16 has been banned in Saudi Arabia, its official ratings board has confirmed.
In a post on the official Twitter account for its video game division on Wednesday, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media stated that the game had not been cleared for release in the country.
According to the message, the game has been banned because it contains unacceptable content that Square Enix refused to change.
“For fans of Final Fantasy 16, we would like to clarify that it has not been released in the Kingdom, due to the publisher’s unwillingness to make the necessary modifications,” the tweet reads.
Earlier in the week, the board’s general supervisor for video games, Hattan Tawili, had tweeted about the situation without explicitly naming the game.
“Unfortunately, after all our attempts over the past eight months without any success, one of the most important and biggest games of the year is on its way to being banned due to the company’s complete refusal to modify the content to suit the region,” he wrote.
“Of course, it is clear to the company what happened, but they put it in abundance without reason and refuse to modify it.”
It’s not clear exactly which content in the game caused it to be banned, but in February, on the same day a preview embargo for the game was lifted, three writers for Saudi website TrueGaming posted vague tweets implying an upcoming game had LGBTQ+ content. If they were referring to Final Fantasy 16, this would certainly be considered a cause to ban the game in the region.
The ban arrives as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) continues to make a series of investments in the video games industry.
Earlier this year the country became Nintendo’s biggest outside investor after increasing its stake in the company to 8.26%. Nintendo has previously claimed that when the PIF bought its initial stake in the company, it was unaware of the transaction and first learned about the Saudi investment from news reports.
The PIF, which has made a series of investments in the video games industry in recent years, is reportedly central to crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s goal of making the Saudi economy less reliant on proceeds from oil.
In December 2020, the fund acquired over $3 billion worth of stock in Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard, FIFA publisher Electronic Arts, and Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two.
In September 2022 it also said it would invest a further $37.8 billion in games industry acquisitions, including around $13 billion to acquire “a leading game publisher”.
Saudi Arabia officials have said the investments will help modernize the kingdom, but they have come with negative fallout due to the country’s highly criticised human rights abuses.
Notably, the crown prince has been accused by US Intelligence of ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The country is also engaged in a controversial war in Yemen, and has historically cracked down on female activists and homosexuality.