This ever-popular topic WILL be back to haunt us in Red Orchestra 2.
USK is an acronym for Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (“Self-Monitoring of Entertainment Software”)
BPjM is an acronym for Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (“Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons”)
USK provides the ratings in Germany. Their process is not the most helpful. There are no published guidelines (unlike PEGI/BBFC/ESRB) to help. We are expecting an 18 rating – which is just fine with us. But, just to get an 18 rating, we are also expecting to have to make cuts – almost certainly dismemberment has to go. Hopefully nothing much else. We already make sure we avoid any of the symbology that is illegal in Germany.
If a game fails to get a rating, or is sold without being rated, it may get “indexed” (i.e. put on the “List of media harmful to young people“) by BPjM. Once indexed, a game may only be sold to adults over 18 by request and may not be sold openly in stores, nor advertised “on any other media”. Note that the list of physical media is published – there is also a list of virtual media, which is NOT published so as to avoid advertising. It is technically ILLEGAL to publish that list, or lit any products from it. Basically, if the game gets “indexed”, we can’t sell it in stores at all (almost no retailers stock “under-the-counter” games) and it would be a legal grey area to sell it digitally to anyone in Germany.
A game can also get banned by BPjM, but I think we’ll avoid that one completely.
Some companies have, in the past, simply given up on Germany as a separate sales territory and not bothered to get the game rated. The game cannot be sold in stores, nor advertised. We still want to try and sell the game in stores in Germany. This means it has to be rated – and will wind up being cut. This is why we have put up the “LV” thing on the Steam store page. We don’t think the cuts will be big, but dismemberment will be. We don’t know about other gore yet.
Now – a very important point: how do we identify a “German” version? In store it is easy – different (German) keys in the box, to comply with USK/BPjM. Online, a purchaser can only be identified to be “in the country” by their IP address. If you buy the game online, with a German IP address, you WILL get a German license, resulting in a “cut” version. If you buy the game from a non-German IP address, or are gifted it from outside Germany, then you will get the “ROW” (Rest of World) version, which is uncut.
It has also been suggested that we ignore all of that for online sales. We won’t, for the simple reason that it is dubious legally. It could result in a ban in Germany – and we aren’t going to risk that.
Our view, for those of you living in Germany, is to vote with your money. if that means not buying our game, because you can’t live without seeing people dismembered by a grenade, we WILL be sad. We actually don’t think it makes THAT big a difference, but we realize it does to some people. But if you buy the game OUTSIDE Germany and ship it in, then the German government is losing out on VAT revenue which just MIGHT make someone take notice of the silliness of the whole thing. And make a noise about it to your politicians. The whole thing drives US mental too.