One of the lesser known aspects of game development is when a game has to go through certification for any of the platforms it’s being built for.
Certification is Microsoft’s, Sony’s and Nintendo’s way of making sure that the games on their platforms behave in certain predictable ways.
Certification is usually a lengthy process with many different moving parts. Requirements run the length of “the game is reacting in a certain way when the internet service is lost’ to “how are the game pad buttons represented visually in game”.
Because development usually takes a bit of time, the certification requirements can also change as the game is being developed. This is especially common in the shift of one console generation to the next, and it also makes development straddling two console generations especially challenging. Something that’s required on one generation might in a worst case scenario be prohibited in the next generation.
As developers, this is something we constantly have to stay on top of, and I think that there are few areas in a game – with the possible exception of pure gameplay – that are not touched by this process.
A certification requirement means that the game most likely has to fulfill that requirement or the console manufacturer will not allow the game to be published for their platform. The “most likely” is dependent on what cert requirement it is and in some cases if the publisher is willing to take the cost of not fulfilling the requirement. In some cases certification of certain areas can be delayed and patched in a Day 1 or Day 10 patch, but normally it all has to be there when the game releases.
In addition to certification requirements, all countries have regulations around certain aspects of media that we as developers have to be aware of. A game released in France can for example not have any texts that aren’t translated to French. Each word will cost the developers around $40.000 per sold copy. Who ever said game development was easy?