Final Fantasy XVI has been banned in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's regulatory board has ruled that Final Fantasy XVI can't release in the country because of Square Enix's apparent "unwillingness to make the necessary modifications."

Square Enix's Final Fantasy XVI is releasing in June, but it won't be coming to Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi Arabia's official ratings board, the JRPG hasn't received approval to release in the country (and presumably, by extension, the United Arab Emirates). 

"We would like to clarify that it has not been released in the Kingdom, due to the publisher's unwillingness to make the necessary modifications," wrote the General Commission for Audiovisual Media in a translated tweet. 

Over the years, Saudi Arabia has banned games such as the God of War series and The Last of Us Part II for reasons ranging from gambling to violence and sexual themes. To date, it appears that Final Fantasy XVI is the only video game release of 2023 (triple-A or otherwise) to be banned by the country. 

Earlier in the week, the Commission's general supervisor Hattan Tawili vaguely referenced Final Fantasy XVI's ban. He called it "unfortunate...after all the attempts during the past eight months without any success, the game is on its way to being banned due to the company’s complete refusal to modify the content to suit the region."

A specific reason for the ban wasn't given. But whatever it is, Tawili alleged that it was put into the game "without reason," and further alleged that Square Enix "refused to modify it." 

Final Fantasy XVI's ban also comes as Saudi Arabia is making moves to have a bigger presence in the game industry. In early April, the country-approved Savvy Group purchased free-to-play publisher Scopely (Star Trek Fleet Command). The studio said it will continue to operate independently.

This past February, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) increased its stake in Nintendo from 6 percent to 7 percent. PIF's chairperson is the country's crown prince/prime minister Mohammad bin Salman, who was directly implicated in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and accused of torturing human rights activists

At time of writing, Square Enix has yet to speak on the country's ruling. Game Developer has reached out to the company for a statement, and will update when a response is given. 

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