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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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RE: This is...
By MungaIT on 8/21/2010 8:28:39 AM , Rating: 3
Oh dear... this is the kind of self righteous rhetoric that gives the United States such a bad name internationally(its a shame, your usually such nice people as long as no-one mentions "Freedom" or Liberty"). The United States exerts its power on other nations the world over, Iraq and Afghanistan are good examples(to be clear I am not against the wars)

Let's look at "Freedom" and "Liberty" from another perspective. Due to a lack of effective government in you may be able to play whatever computer games you like in the United States, however you also have an economy that is falling apart, roughly 17% of Americans are below the poverty line, 40% live below the poverty line at some time over a 10 year period and 60% of Americans live below the poverty line for at least a year in their lifetime. But the American government does not even provide a decent social security system to support these people in their time of need and it makes for pretty much the worst social security system in all of the western worlds first world countries. Even Obama's new health care scheme is laughable. Murder rates are 5 in 100,000 (as opposed to 1.2 in 100,000 in Australia). The public tertiary education system(university/college) is inaccessible to most of the American population, so you don't need big brother tactics to make the American people stupid and malleable, just leave the status quo and a lack of education will do it for you.

But hell, you have your Civil Liberties..... aint no government gonna rain on your parade...


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