Archive for July 9th, 2007

Sony vs. the Church of England

July 9, 2007

Should Sony stop selling or recall “Resistance:Fall of Man”? because it has a building where a fight with aliens take place that looks a lot like Manchester cathedral. The Church of England is demanding an apology–and I would guess, a ban on the games or removal of the offending scenes.

This strikes me as the kind of reputation conflict that will help Sony sell more copies. In a world in which many old churches have been converted into uses much different from what they were originally intended, it strikes me as a little strange that churches should treated different than other buildings in terms of use as backdrops for movies, videogames, etc.

I’m not sure what the real issue is here. The photo caption of the news story says the Church of England is deeply offended and worried about gun crime. OK, so is the point of the proposed legal action to stop violent video games and the fact that the building here looks like one of their’s simply provides a relevant pretext? Or is there a claim in here to copyright protection of the building including representations of buildings that might look similar? How far can that be pushed?

My comments are not about the interesting legal implications, because I’m sure what Sony is far more concerned about is its reputation and its sales of a game that has sold 2 million copies. As I said at first, the controversy will probably help propel the sales–you can’t buy this kind of advertising. Besides, having what many young perceive as a bunch of stuffy, grumpy religious people object to a video game is a great way to generate their interest in it.

At the same time, Sony is brand bigger than video games and no one who cares about the American market (much more so than the European for example) can be too cavalier about religious sensitivities. Too demonstrate you have no concern for what offends those who hold things sacred is to risk some serious backlash and brand damage.

If I was a Sony advisor, I’d say stretch out the discussion. Make it last. Get lots of play. Get the bloggers going on it. Then make some modifications such as redesign the cathedral just a bit so it maybe loses a little of resemblance. Make a big deal out of your great sensitivity to the demands of the church, and then go to the bank.

In other words, I think the Church of England goofed up on this. Your thoughts?