Electronic Arts has announced that the upcoming expansion to The Sims 4 (titled “My Wedding Stories“) will not be published in Russia. This is because My Wedding Stories features same-sex relationships both in its new systems and game marketing, which would likely run afoul of Russia’s statute outlawing what it calls “gay propaganda.”
Parsing through EA’s (carefully worded) statement, it appears that much of EA’s concerns with launching the game in Russia has to do with the marketing for the expansion, not just the expansion itself. The Sims 4, which is currently purchasable in Russia, already features same-sex relationships. It’s rated 18+ in the country, while in the United States it only has a “T” rating from the ESRB.
The law against depicting “non-traditional sexual relationships” was passed by the Russian legislature in 2013 in a near-unanimous vote. Its enforcement has been the subject of protests in Russia in the intervening years. It makes it illegal to “equate” same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, something that EA’s marketing for My Wedding Stories does pretty explicitly.
EA explained that it did not desire to hide the story of the two Sim characters featured in My Wedding Stories‘ marketing. “Holding back Cam and Dom’s story meant compromising the values we live by,” it stated. “We are committed to the freedom to be who you are, to love who you love and tell the stories you want to tell.”
This does unfortunately mean that Russian Sims players–some of whom are members of the LGBTQ community–are unable to purchase the new game content.
EA’s example could serve as a useful benchmark for other developers to consider when releasing games in countries like Russia. If your game features same-sex characters, it seems you might be fine to publish it as long as they aren’t at the center of your marketing in the region.
But are game companies willing to hide gay characters to satisfy these unfair regulations? EA chose not to, but it will be worth watching to see what other games it chooses to release in the region, and how it markets them to players.