As German PC Games (Computec Media) reports today, the US version of Infinity Ward's "Modern Warfare 2" and the European version of Valve's "Left4Dead 2" is on the index list in Germany, thanks to the BPjM the ("Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons").
On their Website they write "Our task is to protect children and adolescents in Germany from any
media which might contain harmful or dangerous contents. This work is
authorized by the "Youth Protection Law" (Jugendschutzgesetz - JuSchG)".
2 more examples why publishers and game developers have to be cautious if they want to sell their triple A titles in Germany. A country with a population of 82 million, spending over US$ 1 billion in 2008 on video games (probably even more).
The "German Versions" of "Modern Warfare 2" and "Left4Dead 2" are not affected by this semi-legal institution. Titles like Resident Evil 5 or Grand Theft Auto 4 on the otherhand passed their inconsistent rating system.
The ESRB/PEGI like BPjM rating allows these games still to be sold under the desk - literally. Importing these games via US/UK is possible. Downloading US/UK versions via (legal) digital download services like Steam or direct2drive is prohibited by law. Ordering the titles on Amazon UK or elsewhere is possible, but the majority of Germans still do not use creditcards, and/or are reluctant to give away their creditcard number online.
Meanwhile the piracy rate in Germany is amongst the Top 10 worldwide (sorry, have no real numbers on that one, but I guess you can find news on that too). Many potential customers don't buy what they don't see, they don't see what they don't know, because it is also risky to mention the censored titles in any print media. A District Attorney could find the newspaper or magazine "propagating a censored title" which is a felony and would by law be able to confiscate all issues of that magazine i.e. for writing about it (No joke. Happend in past years. Ask your German video game magazine journalist).
"Freedom of Speech" is in the German constitution too, but seems to have no meaning when it comes to political agendas and heavy lobbying by christian rights groups and similar organizations, who see their perks and highly subsidized (by the government/tax payers) workplaces under threat of a more liberal, democratic society, that puts parenting back in the legal hands of parents alone.
Politicians and parts of the society not only have a bigger lobby than German video game fans and publishers, but are also in this semi-legal "Federal Department"(the members in this commission are not elected but appointed by the church, lobbies and the state government).
Recent censorship attempts by the last German government led to the creation of a German variant of the Pirate Party. They attract young people and are fighting against federal government laws concerning the internet and privacy. They gained 2.0% of the total votes in the general election 2009.
As long as publishers are still making tons of money during an economic crisis in a rather fiscally stable country like Germany, there seems to be no interest in supporting their own lobby group BITCOM e.V "German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and
New Media" for pushing a more positive picture of video games and the video game industry as a whole.
[sorry for typos and the not so slick lingo. I am no native english speaker and not a journalist.]