Australians currently don't have access to Xbox LIVE Indie Games — a fact that irritates many — but it's also something that bothers Jeremy Hinton, Group Category Manager at Microsoft Australia. According to him, Microsoft is looking to the Classification Review to make launching Xbox LIVE Indie a possibility in Australia.
"We're looking forward to the current classification review, which might provide some opportunities for us to launch Xbox LIVE Indie Games here, if the right changes to the system are made," claimed Jeremey.
"That's our hope — that we have a new regulatory system that allows us to use our own peer review system," he continued. "Then we'll be able to bring the games to our market.
"We work with schools locally so students can create their own content. The craziness of the system is such that they can build a game and sell that game in multiple different countries, but not their own."
The issue at the moment is that the Xbox LIVE Indie Games service is classified through a peer review system. In order for Microsoft to launch in Australia, they would have to pay for every single game published on the service — and the cost of that would be astronomical.
"Right now Indie Games, in the regions where it's launched, a lot of their ratings bodies are optional," claimed Jeremy. "But in Australia it's a mandatory legal requirement that all games are classified. The sheer volume of content coming through, the fact that it's coming from all around the world, and the fact that ratings works as part of a mandatory peer review system means that we haven't been in a position to launch that in a way where it's still within legal guidelines."
According to Jeremy, Apple's App Store and the Android Store managed to circumvent this as a result of an archaic classification system that separates console content from mobile content.
"It's all part of the challenge with the current classification system," said Jeremy, "because iPhone and Android games are on a mobile device they're under the Media Communications Act, rather than the Classification Act which console games fall under."
From what we've seen and heard from the Classification Review so far, it looks as though it will present recommendations to move towards a co-regulatory system in which the local industry bears some of the burden of classification. If that's the case, we could see Xbox LIVE Indie Games launching in Australia at some point in the future.
But when that'll will actually come to pass is anyone's guess.