Online-Only Games The Latest Problem For Aussie Censors

Blacklight: Tango Down, a recently-released online shooter, hasn't been released in Australia. Why? Because it's an online shooter.

It's a strange situation for a game to find itself in, but that's definitely the reason Blacklight isn't available for Australian consumers; because the country's Classification Board will not rate a game's online component, there was nothing left for it to rate, and an unrated game is not allowed to be sold in Australia.

In some ways, it's similar to the ESRB's "experience may change during online play" caveat, only a lot more damning. Despite this being Australia, there's no connection between the lockout and the game's violent content; it's simply down to the fact that every single game mode, even the singleplayer, requires an Xbox Live connection.

So why hasn't this happened for other games? Most titles have at least one offline component, whether it be a tutorial or skirmish mode. Older online-only games, like World of Warcraft, got by under old guidelines that stated they didn't have to be rated as video games (for a good explanation of why, see here).

That loophole was closed six months ago, however, and Blacklight has been the first game to run foul of them.

The good news in this case is that Microsoft and developers Ignition have supposedly found a workaround, and the game is being submitted to the Classification Board very soon. So hopefully for Australian and New Zealand customers, you'll be able to try the game in a month or two.

The bad news? The Australian Classification Board's capped ceiling of an MA15+ rating is, while ridiculous, at least explainable for the fact it was an innocent oversight implemented in the days of Pong and Pitfall (which supposed games would never need an adults-only rating). This change, though, is recent, and somebody, somewhere should have known better, especially as more and more games go online-only.

[<a href="Blacklight Tango Down FAQ">Xbox Australia]


Comments

    so will wow cataclysm be refused becouse its 100% online

      Theres probably some form of legal loop hole which allows them to get around that, something like it being a paid update to an already existing shelf product.

      I'd imagine Cataclysm would be fine, it's just an addon for WoW isn't it? I'm more worried about FFXIV.

    So hold on, how will this effect future online-only games, esp MMOs like FF XIV and the Old Republic?

    We're not gonna have problems there are we? because I highly doubt the laws regarding this will change in the next year..

    So, it still doesnt explain WHY.
    Why cant an online only game be classified?
    What is the problem?

      Heh cause there's no box to tick on the paperwork no doubt.

      The logic behind it, I imagine, is that the OFLC can not say for sure what kind of things will happen while you are online. Specifically, what kind of things other people will see.

      Normally, if they can not guarantee the actions/language of a media will be suitable for a certain age group, they will throw it into the R18+ grouping just to be safe.

      Games, though, have no R18+ as we all know, so instead they just get treated as though they SHOULD be R18+. Ie, banned.

      At least, that is how I understand it works. I could be wrong. And whether I am wrong or right, it is still stupid.

    Correction: Video game ratings in Australia began in the mid 90s, and there were certainly games refused classification (and worth refusing classification to) at the time.
    'Dream Web' and 'Voyeur' were both submitted and subsequently refused classification in February 1995

    I'm still surprised that developers try to make their content fit within the ignorance of the Australian classification guidelines. We are a tiny fraction of the global gaming market (something like 2-3%)

    They should just tell the classification board to shove it and let commerce enter into the debate.

    i am greatly confused, games like TF2 and CSS are online only yet they're sold in brick and mortar stores. Just goes to show how our games classification system is crap

      as stated

      anything purely online content that was rated before 6 months ago was fine

      it is intresting in how theyll approach things like SWTOR and other future MMO's

      tho one logically would think you would say well if one were to take this as a completly offline game we believe it should be rated this but it could be worse when used in conjunction with others

      Those games are -not- online only. You can play them without an internet connection, it's just very dull.

      TF2 and CSS aren't really online only. You can play both offline/lan and experience 99% of the game.

      In both you could still, say, add models to test what happens when you shoot them...or have another computer lan it together, which acts more like console multilayer than 'online'.

    What about Warhawk? that was released here as an Online only, digitally distributed game first and then it went to physical copy later.

    Personally i think that Ignition just didnt submit the game to be classified for whatever reason and now they are just blaming the OFLC to cover their own ineptitude.

    I have to say after reading several Kotaku articles on this subject, it still doesn't make sense. I can see a good reason to not rate online games, I guess, but would probably just release them anyway.

    So then how do they explain MAG for the PS3?

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