Brendan O’Connor Talks App Store Classification

Brendan O’Connor Talks App Store Classification

Speaking to Ben Grubb over at the Sydney Morning Herald, Brendan O’Connor discussed classification, more specifically the classification of mobile apps on the App Store.

The summary of decisions from the SCAG meeting last weekend stated that mobile games on the app store would be “treated similarly to other online content, rather than stand alone computer games.” In short this decision means that games on the app store would only be classified should members of the public make a direct complaint about the game. This is a move explicitly designed to take the load off the Classification Board.

According to O’Connor the “absolute explosion of tens of thousands of games on mobile platforms” placed “unsustainable strain on the Classification Board”.

“Under the change… the public will still be able to [have]protections such as submitting games to the Classification Board for consideration and lodging a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority.”

This seems to be a solution O’Connor hinted at when we discussed the issue with him earlier last year.

“It’s a tough question,” began O’Connor, when asked how the government would attempt to classify the massive influx of online video game content. “How do we regulate this stuff in the 21st century? There’s different agencies, different stuff, we have to think about how we can manage it.”

At that time we suggested some sort of self regulation – to which he agreed.

“You know, I don’t want to jinx the findings of the Australian Law Review Commission,” he began, cautiously, “but that’s a path we may have to look at.

“I think there’ll probably have to be some sort of balance – there needs to be a complimentary approach where we work together towards some sort of self regulation.”

At the time we were referring to some sort of industry body, which may be the solution the Australian Law Review Commission comes to when it presents its findings this December, but in the interim, under a present set of guidelines that requires every app be classified, this may be decent solution.

“Theoretically the board must classify every application,” claimed O’Connor. “But you would need an army, literally an army of classifiers to get through the applications because the growth has been exponential and for that reason we’re going … to a complaint-based approach.”

When we spoke to Paul Hunt, the ex-Deputy Director of the Classification Board, he discussed this very issue in detail.

“I actually think it’s a waste of time to classify the amount the board are classifying now,” claims Paul. “Attempting to classify mobile games – it’s silly. It’s just silly.

“Having a system where the industry has more regulatory control, with the government overseeing it, is a far more efficient model, in my opinion. And I know that if I was still in charge of the resources I’d just say look – there’s no way we can do every app on the App Store, for example. Even if you cut it down to just the games, you’d still be buggered.”

Overall this seems to be a solid solution for the short term. Hopefully in the long term the Attorneys-General will be keen to implement a system that allows for industry self-regulation.

Government to censor iTunes app store [SMH]


  • If it were the case that every app had to be classified before release like retail games, then Apple would probably be happier removing the app store from Australia all together.

    I’m glad they came to a sensible agreement on this. Complaint-based classifications should work okay.

  • So, how does this affect XBL-Indie Games?

    Also, it looks like we’re talking about PEGI then?

    And finally, if we wanted the classification system to collapse… do we just have publishers submit all their games at the same time?

  • Apple really have their claws in deep don’t they.

    Judging by this sentiment, we need an onslaught of game releases on PC and console, apparently if you make the job too hard the gov’t will just let it all through and wait for a complaint.

    I find the logic being applied here absoluletly startling. Somehow apple manages to vet all these applications but a government is unable to do so. I’m incomprehensibly bewildered.

    • Most of the Ministry have them… it would cause an unholy stink if the app store was closed and they were removed from phones.

      • ^ This gets to the heart of the matter, if you want a freeway upgraded, make sure the minister is stuck in traffic. Half the time politicians won’t act on anything unless it personally affects them – this is why we see them dragging their feet on the R18+ issue.

        Stupid iPhones 🙁

  • So basically if we want the government to stop classifying retail games we just need 4 billion of the things released all at once.

    • We don’t want them to stop classifying them, just to stop banning them. Classification is fine – helpful, even. Adults being banned from playing what they want is the problem.

      It does seem like self-regulation is the sensible way to do it, though. The government can publish the guidelines for each rating (INCLUDING the R rating) and the publishers can then just look up these guidelines, see which rating applies to their game and slap the appropriate marking on the box.

      No need then for the classification board to get involved unless somebody makes a complaint about an inappropriate rating (with a requirement for some significant number of complaints to trigger a review in order to prevent one or two people making nuisances of themselves).

  • “Why waste our time classifying hundreds of thousands of app games, when we already do not properly classify console and pc games.”

    • I’m hoping the ALRC will come back with findings that support a similar system for all video game classification.

      • I’m hoping the ALRC will come back with a mandate to completely rebuild our entire array of classification and censorship systems from the ground up so that they’re:
        – internally consistent
        – nationally consistent
        – comparable to the systems of similar Western nations
        – no longer hybrid classification/censorship system but true classification systems

      • I’m sure every game on Steam has been classified… okay, enough sarcasm.

        The ironic thing is if Valve didn’t try to release a boxed version of L4D2 over here then we would be able to buy the non-crippled version off Steam with ease! Damn you Valve for trying to provide Australia with options!

  • Good to see that Aussies still think anal rape is an OK term to throw around:
    “Even if you cut it down to just the games, you’d still be buggered.”

      • Did you sever see that tourist add we spread across the world “Bloddy beutiful” or some such.

        I saw it in Taiwan and was shocked. Got censored eventually.

        We just don’t get it.

    • Buggery doesn’t specifically refer to rape… it’s any anal sex.

      And hey, with the right farm animal… and the right lube…

      Protip: store your Vaso and your Deepheat / VaporRub in 2 very different parts of the house… you don’t want to grab the wrong one in a fit of passion.

  • Is there any way we can just get every international fellow to refuse classification themselves so we can see the Australian public go nuts at the classification board and force it to reform?

    Industry classification with government intervention when the entire industry goes berserk is a great idea IMHO. Works in the US doesn’t it? (I hope, otherwise my argument sort of fails). Not to mention that’s how Australia roles – laissez-faire with government intervention 😉

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