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Australia may lose most of its smart phone games, if the government's censorship plan moves ahead. Under the plan mature titles would be banned outright and developers would have to pay as much as $2,000 to have their games classified.  (Source: Ken Irwin/Sydney Morning Herald)

Fallout 3 was among the popular international titles to be banned outright by Australia's censorship board.  (Source: Aeropause)
In the land down under, if a 15 year-old can't handle a game, it's banned outright

At times the concept of banning violent or sexually explicit video games has floated around the higher echelons of the U.S. government, but has always been shot down as too gross an invasion of civil liberties and the free market.  However, Australia for some time now has been exercising a hard moralistic policy of censorship that would make even infamous anti-gaming ex-lawyer Jack Thompson proud.

Current Australian law mandates that video game-makers go before the Classification Board to receive a rating.  As there's no 18+ rating, any game that's too explicit for a fifteen-year-old will be banned from sale under the strict guidelines.  Recently banned titles include 
Fallout 3 (for digital gore, sexual innuendo, and simulated drug use) and Left 4 Dead 2 (for digital gore).

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor, who acts as the Commonwealth Censorship Minister, isn't satisfied with the current provisions, though.  He identified a loophole that currently allows smartphone app makers to sell games without review.  Currently Apple's iTunes store, Google's Android marketplace, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion's App World, and Nokia's Ovi store all sell classification-free smartphone game titles in the Land Down Under.

Under O'Connor's plan, smartphone game-makers would be forced to pay between $470 to $2,040 USD in fees to get their title classified.  And they could see their game rejected outright.

Many smartphone game-makers already operate on slim profit margins per sales region, and are saying that if the plan is implemented they will simply pull out of Australia's smartphone market.  

Marc Edwards, founder of Australian smart phone game studio Bjango, calls the plan deeply flawed, stating:

I understand that there's certainly a desire to treat [mobile game apps] in the same light [as PC-based games], but I think they're built and consumed in quite a different way and I think iPhone games may be a little closer to flash games on websites, certainly in some cases where they're small titles rather than [blockbuster] titles with large budgets and large timelines.

The sheer volume is going to make it very, very difficult.  The Classification Board is certainly going to have to put on a large amount of staff to be able to handle the iPhone app store, the Android [marketplace], as well as other platforms like Nokia's Ovi and other emerging platforms.

It's very difficult to define what's an app and what's a game.  What about if a utility has some kind of game as an Easter egg? Does that mean that all of a sudden it becomes a game? And what about desktop applications? They've never been classified.

Despite being a proud Aussie, Edwards says that if the rules are rolled out, he will likely pull out of the Australian market; after all, only 4 percent of his sales comes from his home country.  Other game developers, including other locally-based smartphone studios, are promising to following in suit.

The government, though, is likely eyeing the massive revenue it thinks that classification could bring.  Assuming a $2,000 classification fee, the scheme could, in theory, rake in $345M USD from game developers selling products on Apple's iTunes App Store.  And that's not to mention revenue from the Android developers and others.

Unfortunately, that move may largely kill smartphone gaming in Australia, blocking out all but the biggest titles.  That would leave Australia's 200,000+ smartphone users lacking the entertainment enjoyed by their more freedom-endowed colleagues elsewhere about the globe.

A final decision was postponed at the May Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting and will be delivered at November's meeting on censorship and other issues.

A full list of Australia's censored films, video games, and more can be viewed here (Note: The list contains some "erotic" films, but no hardcore adult entertainment. Nonetheless, it is probably not safe for work.)

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By bubbastrangelove on 8/19/2010 11:14:13 AM , Rating: 2
If someone from Australia downloads the STEAM Platform how does the government block someone from buying L4D2 off the STEAM platform as opposed to say Half Life or any other game considered acceptable?

It seems the Australian Government would need STEAMS cooperation for this to work which I'd be pretty surprised if STEAM actually went out of its way to enforce.

On a side note; the only bad thing I can say about Australia besides there's a whole lot of things that can kill you down there (lots of jellyfish, snakes, crocks, deserts etc) is their over-bearing government. I love that country and the people.

Just curious.

RE: Question
By B3an on 8/19/2010 11:39:32 AM , Rating: 2
Because Steam recognises what country you're in and displays available games for that area.

But you can always get torrents... in a way these Aussie Nazi's in power will encourage piracy.

RE: Question
By DarkElfa on 8/19/2010 11:56:13 AM , Rating: 3
Its just another day in the censorship news for the People's Republic of Australia.

The government probably censors the news so that they don't even know this stuff is happening.

RE: Question
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2010 12:03:19 PM , Rating: 2
The government probably censors the news so that they don't even know this stuff is happening.

On the contrary... It's actually well known when a game gets banned, and gaming magazines, websites etc' go into almost a sort frenzy.

Don't get me wrong, censorship plainly sucks, but the Government hasn't taken our ability to yell, scream and kick the bucket in frustration, regardless of Media.

RE: Question
By DarkElfa on 8/19/2010 12:10:42 PM , Rating: 3
I was mainly being sarcastic Stevo, but in the realm of seriousness, if Australians don't get off their asses and get these kind of people gone, you may lose those other rights as well.

RE: Question
By StevoLincolnite on 8/19/2010 12:00:11 PM , Rating: 2
If someone from Australia downloads the STEAM Platform how does the government block someone from buying L4D2 off the STEAM platform as opposed to say Half Life or any other game considered acceptable?

Because Fallout 3 and Left for Dead 2 are NOT banned, they had content modified so as to be accepted.

However, I just refused to buy Left for Dead 2 because of the castration it got, it was less gory than the original.

For instance, shoot a zombie and it fades into nothing almost instantly.

Heck StarCraft 2 is more gory than that with it's exploding Zerg units and buildings leaving entrails everywhere.

However, there is allot of lobbying to bring in an R18+ rating, so hopefully we should have it within a year or two.

RE: Question
By siborg71 on 8/19/2010 7:13:30 PM , Rating: 1
Yes, Steam blocks it. Apparently there are some ways around it, but it still filters out content for the rest of the world if an Aussie is on the server...

It f**king sucks hardcore. We have been trying to get this resolved here in Australia, but in order for the R 18+ classification to be allowed, there has to be a unaminous decision from the governors of each state... and one kept blocking it. Now he's resigned. And now this shit is going to happen? With our national election this weekend I'd vote for whoever is against this, but none of the major candidates have mentioned anything about this.

Also, there were plans put on the table to censor Australia's Internet access as well. Filtering sexually explicit content. I think our former Prime Minister has been talking too much with China!

RE: Question
By Lerianis on 8/30/2010 2:24:47 PM , Rating: 2
It's all about keeping control of the populace. The more sexually satisfied people are, the less violent they are... but it's also harder to get them to care about going to war with other foreign countries to force the conservative religious viewpoints on those foreign countries.

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