Australia Cracks Down on Selling Unrated MMORPGs

The age classification system found on video game boxes to help parents decide whether a game is suitable for their children has landed MMOs in some hot water in Australia. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald today (via IGN ) has stated that "Video game publishers and retailers are risking hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines by illegally selling online role playing games such as World of Warcraft without age classifications."

Basically, games such as WoW, Warhammer Online, Age of Conan and Pirates of the Burning Sea are being sold without being classified by the Australian Classification Board, which apparently goes against the NSW Classification Enforcement Act. The game industry, however, believes online games without a single player component don't need to be classified. Regardless, a spokesman for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos explained the fines for breaking the act:

The spokesman added that enforcement of the act was the responsibility of police but penalties for breaking these laws ranged from $1,100 to $11,000 for individuals and/or 12 months' imprisonment. For corporations the fines were approximately double.

Blizzard poster Zarhym stated on the official World of Warcraft forums that "We will always respect the laws of the countries in which we operate."


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Aussie rules
# Feb 05 2009 at 4:16 AM Rating: Decent
267 posts
The laws in Australia are pretty ridiculous. One of the few countries with no R raiting for games meaning that games that might normally get an R rating (and prevent kids from playing them) either end up scraping through as M or get banned and pirated by people who would otherwise buy it legitimately.
Having said that, I'm often amazed that the ages of some wow players. My 2 eldest children play (ages 10 and 11) but they only play when my wife or I are playing. If we didn't play I doubt that I'd let them play a game that is esentially made for adults and where they are interacting online with adults. Most of those adults are great people but some are not. As a GM of a fairly large guild it staggers me the number of kids younger than my own who play the game with absolutly no parent supervision at all. I often feel as though the other guild officers & I are being proxy parents for them by guiding them in the game and trying to keep their gaming experience a positive one. I think a lot of parents buy wow for very young kids without really understanding the nature of the game. Just install and leave them to it. I really think that a game like this can be a great one for kids to play but it is not a game made for kids. A rating would give parents a better idea of what they're buying. I've seen mnore than one young kid have serious in game issues simply through lack of maturity and not being able to handle the social aspect.
Who's fault is it really?
# Feb 04 2009 at 11:05 AM Rating: Decent
The ACB (Australian Classification Board) currently has five different ratings that they give to software, which are categorized by their impact: G (Very Mild), PG (Mild), M (Moderate), MA 15+ (Strong), and RC (Very Strong). The impact is determined by six classifiable elements: themes, violence, sex, language, drug use, and nudity. The classification also takes into account the context and impact of each of the individual elements, "including their frequency and intensity, and their cumulative effect." (FCG Guidelines 2005 - Commonwealth of Australia)

Now, based on the classifiable elements, I would think that it would be possible to create a rating tailored specifically toward video games (specifically multi-player games), which would indicate that the rating may vary during game-play. Perhaps adding a "/" between two ratings to indicating that it varies (i.e. G/M = Varies between G & M or PG/RC = Varies between PG & RC).

Regardless, the software companies should have been making sure their games received appropriate ratings. While the distributors should have been checking to make sure all of the software had ratings before putting it on the shelves.

Basically, I think the blame on this one should be placed on each of the parties for their failure.
1. Place blame on the ACB for failing to create a rating system that will allow the software from these companies to compete with other software.
2. Place blame on the software companies for failing to receive a rating and/or failing to lobby to create a rating that would apply to their software.
3. I would place blame on the companies that were distributing software without a rating.

In the end, I don't really think that any of the parties should be punished for their actions, but rather that they should all work together to make sure that everything is done properly in the future.
Poor Aussies...
# Feb 04 2009 at 6:26 AM Rating: Good
808 posts
Hatzistergos and McClelland, both Labour, eh?

Apparently the Conservatives have had better things to do with their time and the government's resources than try to keep Australian teenagers from playing naughty video games. Oh well, that's why we have elections I guess.
# Feb 03 2009 at 11:04 PM Rating: Decent
4,445 posts
I don't see why they don't think they need a classification. Honestly every on-line game that has any type of communication should probably at least be for teens. Pretty much there will always be somebody either cursing and/or talking dirty.

Sounds like they are going overboard with it though.
# Feb 04 2009 at 4:29 AM Rating: Good
here's the catch, according to a post in the thread in the link, because the content of the game changes when it's online (ie, swearing in chat) the Australian form of the ESRB apparently cannot GIVE online games (or any game with a multiplayer aspect) a definitive rating; thus NO multiplayer game can EVER be sold in Australia.

wtb: update to outdated rating system
# Feb 04 2009 at 3:25 PM Rating: Default
I agree.

I am so tired of Government trying to "Save us" from things we CHOOSE to do or participate in, or even buy.

I'll bet they wouldn't like it if a vote had to be taken by their electorate for ANYTHING that is added to a bill as it makes it's way through legislation.

You want to save us Big Brother?

Then make us safe in THE REAL WORLD... I mean honestly...protecting adolescents from swear-words, sexual chat/innuendo? PUUUUHHHH-Leeeeeeeze A 3rd or 4th year school child gets heaps of that stuff on the playground EVERY DAY. Ohhhh...Government's goal is to save the young developing minds from violence and violent games? Ohh-My-Gosh! Alert the media! Cops and Robbers is under scrutiny, so is Cowboys and Indians, and playing at combat as a Soldier. {what we called War when I was a child} hey...why don't they fire some at that outrage at television? More violence & sexual situations are depicted in that media format than alllllll other games COMBINED!


In other words...I feel for you guys and gals 'down under' :=(
# Feb 03 2009 at 10:42 PM Rating: Default
pathetic bureaucrats. plain and simple.

feel bad for you Australians :(

hopefully it'll get shot down after your people threaten to not re-elect them.
# Feb 04 2009 at 2:54 PM Rating: Good
You have no idea. Australia is apparently the only developed country in the world that doesn't have an R-rating for games at all. Anything that doesn't make the MA/15+ rating gets banned. Quite a few games have either not been released or have had to be modified to get a rating in Australia. Any change has to be agreed to by all the states and currently one of them is blocking even the call for public submissions on the possibilty of adding an R rating to the current classifications.

You are always in trouble when the people making the decisions have no idea about what they are deciding on. Exactly like the problem with MMO's now - and it might take them months before they get around to working out how to fix the MMO rating issue. WoW might be illegal to sell for some time to come yet. Glad this happened now and not just before the expansion was released.

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