ESRB Clarifies Position On Street Fighter 5 Rating And Censorship

On December 12th, 2015 in an interview with Event Hubs Capcom’s director of brand marketing and e-sports, Matt Dahlgren, had put the onus on the ESRB regarding Street Fighter V being censored globally for its upcoming release on PC and PS4. According to Dahlgren they had to ensure that the content in the game was abiding by the rules of the Electronic Software Rating Board. Well, I asked a representative of the ESRB  — who preferred not to be named — about the situation and they clarified exactly what role they played in Capcom reevaluating Street Fighter V’s content.

I initially asked if Street Fighter V was ever at risk of being labeled a ‘Mature’ title, basically trying to figure out if Capcom had to make changes to the game to secure a ‘T’ for ‘Teen’ rating. According to the ESRB representative…

“After receiving a final rating submission for Street Fighter V and based on the content depicted in the game and overall context, ESRB assigned a T (Teen) rating with content descriptors that include Mild Language, Suggestive Themes and Violence.”

The final rating doesn’t mean it was the initial rating. Back in June of 2015 Event Hubs reported that Capcom’s initial posting of the Street Fighter V rating from the ESRB was ‘M’ for ‘Mature’. This was before the butt-slap, the camera angle and all of the hoopla that followed with the unveiling of Rainbow Mika on August 27th, 2015.

During the initial beta test and during the promotional events that showcased R. Mika, neither her move, nor the camera angle that glimpsed the butt-slap were removed. During the second closed beta test on October 23rd, Gamespot posted a video showing that the game was not censored.

However, in a video posted on November 7th, 2015 by IGN, R. Mika’s Critical Arts butt-slap and finishing move had been altered, along with the camera angle for Cammy’s intro. This created a lot of confusion and anger amongst fans, causing them to blame the games media for Capcom censoring the content. According to Street Fighter V producer Yoshinori Ono, he stated that the changes were made to avoid offending anyone. According to Capcom’s brand manager Matt Dahlgren the changes were made to comply with the ESRB.


After contacting the ESRB, they stated that there is a pre-review process afforded to developers to let them know whether or not their game complies with a certain rating. The ESRB representative wrote…

“ESRB provides an informal pre-review process, which is open to all developers and publishers who submit their game for a rating. ESRB does not tell developers and publishers what to put in a game, but we do provide general guidance regarding content that would most likely result in a more restrictive rating. It is then up to the developer to decide how to proceed. Given the confidential nature of this process, ESRB does not elaborate or provide details about which games nor the content that may have been pre-reviewed.“

The official rating for Street Fighter V was posted on the ESRB website on November 4th, 2015 according to a report from Attack of the Fanboy, just before the IGN video was posted and just after the second beta test had concluded.

In a previous Ask Me Anything on Reddit, an ESRB employee stated that the ratings process takes about a week and is judged based on a video containing the most extreme content featured in the game. They stated in the IAmA…

“We receive a video of the game, showing the game’s most extreme content in the appropriate context. Then raters watch the video like a movie and present their rating. If it is in line with games that have similar content, the rating is issued. If not, the higher-ups assign a different rating.”

Based on when the changes were made – between October 23rd when the second beta was underway and November 4th when the final rating was issued – it’s entirely possible that Capcom made the change to coincide with the ‘T’ for ‘Teen’ rating that Street Fighter V ended up with. Of course the actual process and discussion on what needed to be changed is confidential between Capcom and the ESRB.

TL;DR: Unless some other evidence surfaces, the timeline of events appears to suggest that the changes were made in Street Fighter V to fit the ratings standard of the ESRB.


OAG staff consists of writers creating content about video game and digital culture.

58 thoughts on “ESRB Clarifies Position On Street Fighter 5 Rating And Censorship

  1. but it’s still funny that a buttslap was the deciding factor between a T and an M rating when there has been way much worse things in T rated games than that.

    1. That proves they were influenced by SJWs/feminists, because that is the kind of thing SJWs/feminists complain about the most.

      You know, violence, murder, blood and gore is all okay but a sexy scantily-clad female is the biggest sin on earth.

      1. you forgot the asterisk.
        Violence, murder, body mutilation, blood and gore is all okay (only against men though) but a sexy scantily-clad female is the biggest sin on earth.*
        *unless said female was designed by a woman then its empowerment and censoring it is then sexist.

      2. Bayonetta was designed by a woman. While Movie Bob did defend her back in 2009 or so, recent Whiners attack Bayonetta now.

  2. Yoshinori Ono stating that the changes were made to avoid offending anyone really does say it all. I quote:

    “we can’t have something in the game that makes people think, ‘This is not acceptable’”

    “we don’t want to have something in the game that might make someone uncomfortable”

    “We didn’t make any change because of external influences”

    They have pandered to SJWs and feminists. Fucking cowards. Get fucked Capcom.

    Pirating and looking forward to that nude mod of Rainbow Mika now.

    1. It’s a damn shame they’d fall so low.
      If japanese devs start bowing down to the pro censorship crybullies then they are doomed.

      They’ll just flag themselves as targets and it’ll be open season.
      If they keep firm and not move an inch they will stop trying to bully them.
      But if they cave in, more will flock to them.
      And we all know from experience that once they start they don’t easily stop with the increasingly crazier demands.

  3. There are two ways of looking at this and both are horrifying.

    Option 1, the butt slap would not cause an M rating.
    This would easily fit what any reasonable person would assume, because there is far more M-like content out there getting away with T and even E.
    But it would mean that Capcom shamelessly lied to its fans.

    Option 2, the ESRB did mention the buttslap as a cause for an M rating.
    This would clear Capcom of all dishonesty.
    But it would present a much bigger problem, because it would be like letting GTA get away with guns an a T rating and then giving Splatoon an AO rating for having water guns.
    A mere butt slap in the context of a wrestling match is something PG 13 TV gets away with, easily.
    So if the ESRB is actually pulling off an M rating threat for this, it means that without a doubt the ESRB has become corrupt and betrays its own purpose, its purpose is to provide parents with accurate indicators of a game’s content, not to push agendas.

    1. It’s clear now that the ESRB are filled to the brim with SJWs and feminists.

      It was a matter of time before they were infested. When SJWs/feminists find out their whinging and crying isn’t making as much change as they want, they will then go after and attain control the ‘regulatory body’ of the material in question and get things changed from there. In this case it’s the ESRB.

      And they do this by bullying, harassing and lynch-mobbing the regulatory body/agency until they conform. They really are a despicable set of people.

      1. Oh come on they don’t just harass, bully, blackmail, and threaten people.
        Sometimes they just exchange favours, sex, and promotions.

        But yeah, it’s rarely a matter of if, but when they’ll make their way to a new post and start forcing pressure there.
        I must add that in the past such tactic worked because they were rarely seen as the threat they are so they could advance with no opposition and often they’d be in fact welcomed with open arms as if they were good guys but now they’re in that akward place where they’re already identified as bad guys but other people that have already weighted their eggs in their basket or are still ignorant still don’t see it.
        So it’s not as bad, it’s not irreparable damage.

      2. But yeah, it’s rarely a matter of if, but when they’ll make their way to a new post and start forcing pressure there.

        Why should SJWs/feminists be allowed to waltz into any community, infest it and bully it to take over it in the first place?

        They of course have every right to do so due to free speech, but Jesus are they seriously abusing their free speech now.

        This is why I think GamerGate should act as a consumer watchdog for ALL entertainment media, keeping an eye on SJWs and feminists and calling them out when they start trying to censor material.

      3. That’s a complex answer you ask.
        But it is due to what is “believed” out there.
        Which is based on what is said, and as you must know they control a lot of what is either allowed, accepted or promoted to be said.
        And what they say is stuff like the dictionary definition of sjw as a brave hero of the oppressed.
        And anyone who would not openly accept them is a biggot.
        And personally I’d add that freedom of speech is nice, but the flaw of complete idealistic freedom of speech is that it can be defeated by itself, because the supporters of freedom will support the freedom of those who want to destroy it, while they would not play by the same rules.
        So it is a logically lost scenario, which is why a pragmatic freedom of speech that has as directive 2 the open and free speech, but as a directive 1 the censorship of speech which risks destroying itself is the only viable way to have a long term healthy freedom.

        Also gamergate type movements have popped around here and there, it’s not isolated to games. It is all part of a rising counter culture of cultural libertarianism which is basically the pro freedom of speech backlash against the PC culture that has taken over unchained of political biases of left, right up or down, just the pure support of freedom in culture.

      4. Well said, completely agree.

        The Matt Taylor shirtgate scandal should’ve been the final straw that breaks the camel’s back to show the disgusting behavior and true face of SJWs/feminists, but they completely got away with it.

        If bullying, harassing, doxing and lynch-mobbing to ruin someone’s life means “Social Justice” or “Feminism” then I’m afraid that shit needs to be called out and shut down for good.

      1. It was the same thing with Ar Tonelico… that game had tons of fan service but was only rated Teen. Kind of crazy if a butt slap these days now warrants a Mature rating.

      2. Yep… rated ‘T’ for Teen. Those games definitely had more risque content, so I’m not sure what’s up with the rules getting stricter for SFV.

      3. Wow. Makes me wonder if they even played it for more than 10 minutes. AT3 even made me cringe with how it went completely overboard with its fanservice.

      4. They don’t play games. They watch videos provided by the publishers of the content within the game deemed “most extreme” and rate it based on that.

      5. Feels very like a very flawed system.
        If a publisher only sends the only the ‘extreme’ stuff context can easily get lost and get a higher rating.
        A publisher can also “forget” to include some ‘extreme stuff’ in their video.
        Kinda curious if there are any example ESBR demo vids out there to get a better picture of the process.

      6. One famous “flop” or “mistake” was with the first Dead Island.

        Xian didn’t have any underwear, and some players found a way to check. The game was rated M, but no mention of Nudity, so I think it got patched.

    2. These previous examples of T rated games are one of the reasons I always defended that the ESRB wasn’t to blame for the SFV censorship. But come to think of it, it’s possible they might have new personnel with different “sensibilities” now, hence the unconsistence.

      Btw, here’s another example of a T rated game:

      Arcana Heart 3 Love MAX

    1. Agreed.

      It was also a self butt slap, so not sexual, only taunting. I’ve seen T rated JRPGs with breast fondling from another character. That was most definitely sexual.

      1. Yup. It was nothing more than a taunt and it’s only sexual to the people who choose to sexualize it.

    2. The ESRB gave Hatred an AO rating for having content FAR milder than games like MKX.

      I say it’s time to start seriously digging into this organization, they’re way too inconsistent, secretive and they’re causing real censorship that feels ideologically motivated.

  4. A host of men and women, in various degrees of undress, beat the snot out of each other to the point of grapples and throws which could easily break bones, some even using magical attacks to set their opponent on fire or weapons like chains and bladed claws? This seems appropriate for teenagers.

    A single female tauntingly slaps her own posterior? No no no, that just won’t do.

    I don’t even know who the biggest villain in this scenario is.

  5. All this talk about the ESRB does makes me wonder why the rest of the world should suffer for their decisions as well.
    PEGI and the USK have been known to be far more lenient with this sort of content. I know America is the largest market but this America = West attitude publishers and to some degree the gaming press has always irritated me.

    1. The ESRB is to video games what the Comics Code was to Marvel comics back in the day. Always poking its nose where it didn’t belong, always censoring innocuous content.

  6. Chances are that there is a SJW infection at the ESRB. They went from “Meh, they’re just cartoons” to “OMG! Muh-soggy-knees!” in just half a year. That would also explain why Hatred instantly got an AO rating despite not being that violent.

    1. That would also explain why Hatred instantly got an AO rating despite not being that violent.

      It’s actually one of the least violent mature games out there. I know, that seems completely ridiculous to say but it’s true. It’s mainly just the way the game is presented that makes it seem more violent than it actually is.

      According to the ESRB, they actually admitted that Hatred got the AO rating because of its themes and not because of the content.

    1. It already came true, Steven:

      Your fears are now a reality.

      Hatred was rated AO based on the “moral” of its themes and not the gratuity of its actual content. As mentioned in another article, the game is far more tame than Mortal Kombat X in terms of gore and violence but somehow managed to get an AO rating. It doesn’t even have actual blood stains or persistent gore.

      Heck, Max Payne 3 is far more violent than Hatred but it escaped with an ‘M’ rating.

      If what Capcom is saying is true and if what the ESRB is implying from their vague statements is true, then yeah… they’re using the ratings as a way to content police publishers. Notice what was mentioned in the quote…

      ESRB does not tell developers and publishers what to put in a game, but we do provide general guidance regarding content that would most likely result in a more restrictive rating. It is then up to the developer to decide how to proceed.

      It’s possible they informed Capcom that the butt slap was too offensive or would garner them an ‘M’ rating. But given that there is a confidentiality agreement in place we’ll never truly know unless a whistleblower steps forward.

      1. While i agree that the Hatred debacle was stupid as fuck i do think the context of violence should play some part in a rating.

        For example the lawnmower scene is Dead Alive is bloody as hell but it does not carry the same impact due to its goofyness as say a scene from Saw where a helpless person meets a painfull and bloody end.

      2. That’s true that context should play a part in the rating, but at the end of the day Dead Alive and Saw are both rated ‘R’.

        Previously, I oftentimes compared Hatred to the first Postal, since both of them are essentially murder simulators. Only Postal was rated ‘M’ and not ‘AO’.

        Some have argued that the graphics fidelity of Hatred + the themes is what garnered it an AO rating.

      3. Is there an AO like rating for movies in the US?

        But yeah the original Postal is a much better comparison.
        Mortal Kombat was always sort of goofy.
        Though from what i remember reading in a dutch gaming mag back in the 90s MK was the game responsible to cause Nintendo to lax its stance on prohibited content for games on their platform after they made an ass of themselves with that censored version on the SNES while Sega allowed the game with blood in tact.

        Personally i think the school shootings and the whole gun debate + the current PC climate played a major role in its AO rating as well.

      4. Yeah there’s the NC-17 rating. Very few movies end up with that rating and you really have to push the boundaries to get it.

        Personally i think the school shootings and the whole gun debate + the current PC climate played a major role in its AO rating as well.

        That’s definitely the case. But Hatred was rated AO well before the game was finalized. Then again, the devs could have sent them the debut trailer, which was expertly crafted to make the game look a lot worse than what it really was.

  7. One thing kinda bothered me about it, it’s the fact that no company or agency just says a direct Yes we censored it for a rating or No it wasen’t needed to be censored for this certain type of rating. basicly Yes or No would have been a more direct anwser instead off using a kinda of PR lingo to twist around it as usual.

    1. I noticed this as well. Walker’s comment was finely crafted not to give too much of anything away.

      I understand there are NDAs in place but I was originally ready to do a headline like “ESRB Denies Altering SF5 Content” or something to that effect. But when I received the response I had to read it several times over because 1: it was vague. And 2: it didn’t deny Dahlgren’s comments about it being the fault of the ESRB at all… which was kind of odd.

      1. I know what you mean, kinda still makes the question linger instead off resolving it. but then again ESRB doesen’t account why the japanese version was also altered. atleast if it is,
        that kinda brings the true motive into question anyways cause then the japanese version woulden’t have needed censorship anyways.

  8. Oh please, has anyone seen Mai Shiranui and Angel from King of Fighters? The ratings on those games are never M.

  9. SJW’s always wanting to control others. Just because you’re miserable doesn’t mean everyone else has to be!

  10. Damn, one last thing (sorry about triple post, falling asleep). The big elephant in the room. Which is more likely to be more offensive content for the ESRB?
    A) A female wrestler slaps her own ass
    B) Two female wrestlers crush the head of an opponent between their butts

    The answer is obvious.

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