The Weird Reason Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee Struggled in Japan


Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee is consistently rated as one of the finest video games ever released by people with jobs we kind of envy, weirdly though, when the developers tried to port it to Japan they were told they had to pay a series of huge fines just because Abe happened to have four fingers.

To explain, in Japanese culture, four fingers can be seen as being symbolic or representative of an early under class of Japanese workers known as the Eta, the Eta usually worked in occupations associated with death and generally being kind of smelly, think butchers and abattoir workers and you’re on the right track, as such, they were seen as being unclean and thus, being one was seen as a bad thing.

Amongst this group, accidents and thus, having four fingers was apparently rather common, so, today, showing someone four fingers is seen as hugely offensive to these people’s descendants (now known as the Burakumin) and the act is considered an insult in some areas of Japan. Some of these descendants however, see anything with four fingers, fictional or otherwise as a form of discrimination or as an insult to their heritage. We’re assuming if this was explained to, Oddworld Inhabitants, the creator’s of the game, they probably would have understood, apologised for any perceived insult and tried to work something out, however, that wasn’t what happened.

According to higher ups from Oddworld Inhabitants, instead of being nice about it, certain (unnamed) Japanese pressure groups, acting on behalf of the burakumin, played on the offence and used it to effectively demand money from the studio, basically saying that if they didn’t pay, the game couldn’t be sold anywhere in Japan. If that sounds kind of like extortion to you, that’s because it pretty much was and the big wigs from Oddworld Inhabitants didn’t like it one fucking bit. According to them, after hearing about this and looking into it, they discovered even the mighty Disney used to pay millions every year to the pressure groups just to keep Mickey Mouse in the country. If Disney couldn’t fight this, they sure as hell couldn’t.

That doesn’t mean they paid them anything though. The executives found the entire situation hilariously ironic, since Abe’s character description is literally that he’s a discriminated, four-fingered meat plant worker (ie, exactly the kind of people the Burakumin pressure groups were trying to defend), so rather than pay them, they cut off one of Abe’s fingers. If money won is twice as sweet as money earned, money ripped from the hands of extortionate assholes must taste like the honey of diabetic bees.

And that’s the story of why Oddworld Inhabitants cut off their own characters finger instead of bowing to the demands of an angry group of Japanese people. A sentence we never thought we’d see written down outside of fan-fiction.