ESRB bans some (but not all) adult content in Conan Exiles [updated]

Conan Exiles is an online survival game either played from the first-person or third-person perspective. While the title features numerous characters and mysteries to uncover, it still revolves around gathering resources, learning new schematics, and crafting better gear or shelter. Starting off with nothing more than a stone house, you'll eventually be able to build entire cities from "Black Ice" with dangerous siege weaponry.

When the game initially appeared on Xbox Game Preview, there was some controversy surrounding censorship. PEGI, USK and ESRB are all game rating bodies which assign various classifications to every title. Many months ago, we reported that the American ESRB might give Conan Exiles an "AO for Adults Only" rating which could prevent it from coming to consoles. To avoid this, Funcom had to censor some adult content like exposed penises and testicles in certain countries.

Today, a Funcom spokesperson clarified the situation. On consoles, full nudity is only available in PEGI (Albania, Bulgaria, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and more) and USK (Germany) territories. You can activate it by downloading the "Nudity" add-on which come with the game purchase. Unfortunately, only partial nudity is available in ESRB (Bahamas, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, United States, and more) countries. If the ESRB gave Conan Exiles a rating higher than "M for Mature", it would've prevented the release of the game on numerous platforms in the lucrative American market.

While a lot of gamers living in ESRB countries will be disappointed, developers have to comply with rating agencies. Maybe one day the ESRB will view nudity as less severe than over-the-top violence. Until then, we can all look upon Europe with envy.

Updated May 9, 2018: "AO for Adults Only" is the highest and most restrictive of the American ESRB's ratings. Unfortunately, it dramatically impacts the commercial availability of games because Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony don't let AO games be published for their consoles due to their target audience. Apart from that, a lot of high-profile retailers like GameStop refuse to stock AO games. Lastly, even livestreaming platforms like Twitch ban AO games now. Unless there's a strong following on PC, an AO title won't garner as much exposure because it's limiting its retail viability. This is the reason developers choose to comply with ESRB ratings because the alternative dramatically hurts sales.

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Asher Madan

Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • Would switch store region helped? I seem to remember people talking about switch to Japan store region to DL MGS5 with Japanese VO.
  • It would work but I don't know if the payment option will work. It might require a local credit card. I don't know how PayPal works. Sorry!
  • I live in Japan and buy games from US store.
    But this is not necessary and not the point. Once you bought a game, you can uninstall and install from any region as many times as you want.
  • Yeah i just be headed that NPC, it's a good thing I was protected by sensors from seeing the NPC's flaccid dead penis otherwise i could be really scarred.
  • Truly a traumatic experience.
  • But hey in Wolf 2 it's perfectly OK to slice a Nazi in half with some ridiculous weapon. But a penis...Won't someone think of the children!
  • Ugh damn esrb
  • Blaming ESRB is lazy. We're the same country that freaked out over Janet Jackson's split-second nipple slip. The country overall has to raise its standards, and the ESRB will adapt to it.
  • Well it's both. Esrb reinforces the problem too.
  • It's both your right people are too sensitive and esrb made the option for the region instead of giving us the option for full nudity because of the raiting system
  • So violence and bloody thirsty content is perfectly fine, but heaven forbid anyone sees any nudity 🤔
  • Now you understand.
  • Not sure where Australia sits given we use neither PEGI nor ESRB.
  • Pretty sure you guys get it.
  • Can confirm we get penis
  • I'm so proud!!!
  • If the existence of nudity dictates your enjoyment of a game, you are gaming wrong.
  • It's not that. It's about getting the full content that the devs put into a game vs getting a parts taken out because society from certain countries see nudity differently than other countries. Seeing nudity as something worse than violence.
    It's more an issue of censoring and mentality...
  • We actually fully agree on something here.
  • Lol I was about to say the same thing
  • It's not if it exists or not, if it's someone makes the game, I should get the experience they intended. Someone developed this and thought it was a good idea for reason X. Well It's only fair that I judge the game as the developer intended. I don't care if it gets a different rating, I want the game that I pay for.
  • Censorship has always been a problem here in the UK, not with games so much as with movies, where often the distributor wants a lower rating so the films have to be edited to suit the rating.
  • I haven't been following this at all, are AO rated games censored because of retailers like Amazon/Gamestop or is it Sony/Microsoft who won't allow AO games on their platforms? What is the policy for Valve and Steam on the PC? As a consumer I would like to support the most open and uncensored platforms/retailers.
  • From Microsoft:
    Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity. Microsoft does not support AO titles on Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE or as part of the Games for Windows branded program." From Sony:
    "Adults Only or AO ratings are rare. PlayStation does not publish Adults Only games. "
  • It's not the publisher/retailer that makes the AO rules.
  • That is so ridiculous. We are so very backwards as a country. Extreme violence is ok (which it should be, I am an adult and I get to choose the content I see), but god forbid we see what we all have. What is wrong with us? funny, not funny.
  • What makes it worse, the same people that don't want nudity in games, and have no problem with (or are just oblivious to) violence, are the ones that are also ok with kids yelling the worst crap at each other online and letting them think this is normal behavior.
  • I will never understand societies aversion to nudity, literally every single person has seen someone naked, even if it's only themselves (well, unless you're one of those never nudes), and it isn't an issue.
  • For me as an european the american standards of "moral" are so nonsense.
    Blood, violence? No problem.
    A nipple to see in TV at 9pm? SCANDAL! ARREST THEM!
  • The ESRB is not to blame in this at all. They are only responsible for assignment of the ratings based on the content of the games and the criteria for each rating category. The developers are the ones who chose to remove content from the game to give it a lower rating so that it would be carried by more retailers as the article rightly points out. Those retailers don't want to have to deal with selling AO or even M rated games in some cases. It would require enforcement of federal and state statutes (in the US) in regards to selling what could be classified as obscene material to minors. Right now the onus is put on the retailers to enforce this by law and they choose not to even deal with it. Which is fine and totally understandable. Here's the rub though. When it comes to video games and other forms of electronic entertainment, it really should be a parent or guardians duty and responsibility to monitor their child's choices, not the 17-year-old high school student working for minimum wage at GameStop. It should also be a parent or guardian's responsiblity to use and implement the parental controls on gaming consoles. They exist for a reason and you have no one to blame but yourself if you don't use them. I say all this as a parent. I will not rely on anyone or anything to monitor and restrict my child's entertainment other than myself and my wife and the various tools we use to do so. And that is to say nothing about how we view nudity or sex in this country compared to violence. It's a taboo for unknown reasons. Will I let my child watch pornography? Obviously not. But neither will I shield their eyes just because there is a nipple or naked butt on TV. Yet violence is everywhere. It's a much larger social issue than I have room or time for to debate here.
  • Feeble americans and nudity… so ridiculously laughable
  • I remember GTA IV lost and the damned having an exposed penis (shocked me) during a cutscene and it only got an M rating.
  • Yeah... And I am not even going to play the game. I feel sorry for you US-guys for having such weird restrictions to natural nudity >.> Now, perhaps some of you can better understand why we in Europe sometimes complain about all this US-only in Windows :)?