To Sell Our PC Game In Australia, It Will Cost $890, Must Work In Windows XP

Classification. Unless you're Bethesda, in the professional game-making business, it's something you just don't worry about. It's the publisher's job to send the right materials to the correct organisations, pay the fees and deal with any fallout. Of course, when you don't have a publisher, the burden sits on your shoulders and, while we were expecting some sort of expense to get Zafehouse: Diaries classified in Australia, $110 short of a grand came as a shock.

Before I continue, I should make it clear this is not a whinge. We want you guys to be able to buy the game, so we'll do whatever's necessary to make that happen. What I do want to make you aware of is our initial interactions with the Classification Board and the requirements a PC game must meet in order to classified and therefore, legal for sale locally.

So, $890. Working as a journo covering R18+, I'd heard second-hand from PR folk at the bigger publishers that the cost was in the area of $900-plus. I don't know why I didn't believe them. Now I know it's totally true. Once the the initial slap in the face wore off, I just processed it as just one of those things you have to do. Hey, we'll make it back in sales, right?

*Crosses fingers*

Beyond the fee, what's interesting is that the Classification Board has some specific requirements regarding PC games — even Windows LIVE gets a mention. From the Board's website:

All games submitted for PC platform need to be compatible with Windows operating system Windows XP Professional.

The applicant should provide the game on a CD or DVD and it must be a working version that is installable on the PC. The applicant should also provide clear installation instructions and any necessary codes to play the game to prevent delays in processing the application.
Online games e.g. World of Warcraft If the PC game requires internet connection to play we request the latest version of the game client be submitted to minimise downloaded content and avoid any delays with the application, as well as an active game account to login.
Windows LIVE Games All games for Windows LIVE submitted for classification must work in stand alone mode. No game should require any sign on to Windows LIVE in order to work.

Fortunately, Zafehouse: Diaries is compatible with Windows XP — it was a mission statement of sorts when I started making the game that it should be as backwards-compatible as possible. But it makes me wonder about those triple-A titles that are pushing DirectX 10/11 only and therefore, Windows Vista as a minimum. Will the Classification Board update this requirement in the next few years, or will developers who want to sell big-ticket PC games have to make sure Windows XP is in the mix?

Another point I wasn't aware of is that games designed for mobile devices only are exempt from classification. I doubt it's the main reason Aussie developers have flocked to the iPhone, but it was a fascinating discovery none the less. If you're making a game with almost no capital, I can imagine it's nice not to have this expense to worry about.

I'll post an update once our game has gone through the submission process. While I'm confident we won't be RC'd, I will let you know if anything interesting happens.


Comments

    In case you needed any more proof of how our classification system isn't keeping up with the times...

      No kidding. How the hell do they get away with demanding software must run be able to run on an 11 year old operating system?!

    The high price doesn't shock me (after hearing that it's high several times) but the 'Must run on WinXP' is a shock, especially considering games such as Just Cause 2 and Battlefield 3 have been classified.

      That is curious.

        My guess is that the Classification Board (part of the Attorney-General's Department, right?) is still running XP, and therefore don't have the hardware available to test on more advanced operating systems.

        I'd be interested to know what publishers of modern, non-XP compatible titles do too -- maybe loan/offer to pay costs for renting a more modern machine?

          as far as I know, like many Government Departments the attorney-generals office standard SOE is XP, however they would have separate gaming machines that aren't on their main network, though I doubt they are anything too flash.

          I'd put my money on this being an old requirement left over from early Vista days that hasn't been updated.
          Maybe it'll be reviewed when they move over to WIN7 in the next year or so

      Those games are also on consoles. Do they have to submit every single version of a game even if the content is basically the same? If not then I'd say they just submitted the PS3 or 360 version and got a classification which they could then apply to the PC version as well.

      Probably because that what the government has as their standard desktop platform in most departments. The budget doesn't allow for gratuitous platform upgrades.

      If it didn't work on XP Pro, how could they run it to be able to classify it?

    Windows XP :/
    The amount of PC gamers that still stay on XP would be an extreme minority. Why do they have such a stupid requirement, that's like submitting a PS3 game and it having to work on a PS2. Silly people.

    You only need to have an XP build for classification, you can drop XP support from the public release.

      While that would explain JC2 and BF3, is this detail stipulated on the website?

      So you have to divert resources into creating a specific version of the game just for classification?

      Any way you cut it, it doesn't make sense.

    While the other requirements are baffling and stupid, I heartily agree with this statement:
    "All games for Windows LIVE submitted for classification must work in stand alone mode. No game should require any sign on to Windows LIVE in order to work."

    Nobody should have to put up with GWFL. Ever.

      Yeah :P. I find it hilarious that GFWL is the only DRM platform mentioned. No mentions of steam or origin.

        That would be because Steam and Origin (Not counting BF3, etc.) are simply distribution platforms, while GFWL is an actual part of the shipping code, you can't really separate GFWL from the game itself.

        It's why some games released on Steam and Origin still have GFWL included.

          Wow.... you really need to look at STEAM more. STEAM IS DRM. It is part of every Valve game, and you need it for more and more games. Same for Origin. There DRM systems. Thats there primary use. STEAM was made as a DRM methered for HL2.

            its barely DRM because you dont need to use it to play the games. It doesnt matter if you go offline or if your internet is down. the other platforms that does matter.

              Except that if a Steamworks game has an update (and Steam will usually do so after installation, without user input and before the user can turn off updates for that title), then it is not "a working version that is installable on the PC".

              The actual check for steam DRM is ridiculously simple on non-source games. I remember the code they ripped from Terraria, using Steams DRM.
              It checked to see whether the game had 'Steam.api' in the root directory. If it did, it played fine. If it didn't, it quit.

              Of course that didn't stop people from just putting the file in, but them's the breaks, yo.

        Or Battle.net, for that matter. Imagine the backlash if Diablo 3 was refused classification here because it required a mandatory sign-in to battle.net!

          Probably was submitted as an online game, ala World of Warcraft.

      Same should go for any game on any stuiped thing. Ala, STEAM. I want to play my games WITHOUT IT. Origin I can live with tho.

    Surely this must either be a recent requirement or the classification board is unaware about this themselves since as was mentioned, JC2, BF3 and probably the most blatant would be Halo 2 since it was advertised everywhere as only being able to run on Vista due to being DX10 only.

      The problem about Halo 2 requiring Vista is weird, due to the fact that I just looked at my case and it said nothing about supporting DX10. I think you mean it runs in DirectX 9, but requires Vista to sell more copies of that horrible OS.

    Wait, so you're not allowed to make games that are Mac-only? Linux-only?

      Well Macs aren't "PC's", they are Macs. And if you're trying to release a game that's Linux-only (or Mac-only, for that matter), you're not going to sell very many copies.

        No, Macs are all PCs. They are PCs with the Mac OS on them. PC does not mean "Windows", it means "Personal Computer". That's how it has always been. If you've been confused by those Mac ads that's a shame.

          I do realise that all computers are "PC's", but to avoid confusion it's just common language to call Windows based computers "PC's" and Macs...well..."Macs".

          Despite the fact that you can install Windows on a Mac these days, you still can't install Mac OS on a computer that hasn't been specifically built for it, so the point still stands.

            Lies. My laptop has Snow Leopard OSX running on it. It originally had Vista.

              I'm not sure if Hackintoshes count...

                I wonder what would happen if you released your game, but mention that it only supports hackintosh's, then include driver checks for bootcamp drivers to verify this.

            You can, actually. I've seen MacOS 10.something running on a Dell laptop. There's mucking about with drivers, and there's legal issues - apparently, it can be tricky to get a license for MacOS without a Mac - but it's doable, and the issues aren't really technical issues. If you want proof, google "running MacOS on a PC". There's guides on it.

            MacOS is basically just very expensive Linux with extra features. That's not a judgement call on my part - if you want them, those extra features may well be worth it. Heck, I bought office for the few extra features that various free software wouldn't provide. No different.

            Of course, in the common parlance, "Mac" refers to a Mac computer running MacOS, "PC" refers to everything else. This hasn't been strictly true for some years now, but then, we still "dial" phone numbers (despite there being no dial to move on a touch screen) and then hang up (hang up what? There's no earpiece on a mobile). Language can be stubborn, sometimes. Not often, but sometimes.

            I'm rather hoping that, somewhere in the procedures there's a definition of "PC" but, if there's not, really, how many will it trip up?

              Also, many programs use a floppy disk icon for the "save" button.
              When's the last time you used a floppy?
              When's the last time you bought a computer with a floppy drive?

      I'd like to know this as well. There have been OSX only games before (even Linux only games), how did they get classified? What happens if the Mac (or Linux) version contains extra/different content to the Windows or Console version of a game?

    My guess is Windows XP compatibility is required simply because that is the operating system the OFLC is using (also a guess, but it would not surprise me in the slightest for a government agency concerned about OS security and upgrade costs).

    Triple-A titles rarely appear on just PC and they would probably have gone through with their console versions.

    I think people would be surprised at how many large organisations, including our government it would seem, are still running all their IT on Windows XP.

    Not sure how you'd even get some of the nicer games to run on hardware that's WinXP compatible. I mean, how much RAM do things like Battlefield 3 want?

      The laptops we use at work have the 'built for windows 7' stickers and have had xp installed on them. It was only a short while ago that our IT dept let IE upgrade to 8!!

      It says XP Pro, and dose not say wether its 64 or 32 nit editons... so I would guess BF3 would run on a 64bit XP

    The cost for submitting a game for classification is actually a lot less than I would expect it to be.

    What about Halo 2 for PC? That specifically only ran on Vista when it came out.

    Not good enough. If they are the government gatekeepers they need computers with Windows 7, which will be turning 3 this year. If they can't do a job property then don't do it at all. Transition in a industry governed classification system.

    $890, the cost of one Classification buys a decent windows 7 computer. Keep the monitor, keyboard, mouse and maybe RAM from a old computer and it buys two.

    Are you releasing a boxed game at retail? If you're only releasing online, then there is a 2 year exemption on the classification of these & mobile games. This is due to the classification convergence review which is in progress. You can still apply for classification, but its optional.

      The exemption that covers "online" games refers to games that require a persistent internet connection to play (MMOs etc), not games that are distributed online.

    Wow - this is mostly because XP is the most widely used by business (and I guess the public service) like at my work I recently got a new PC (cuz the old one died) and it was Windows 7 - needless to say I was gobsmacked!

    I doubt that requirement stands, they just probably haven't updated the written requirements a while. Not unless Just Cause 2, BF3, Krater, NFS: The Run, Halo 2 and Dirt Showdown are all being sold illegally. That or they all have secret squirrel DX9 beta builds sitting on a disk somewhere developed at their own great expense just to sell in a market as small as Australia.

    Do you have to seek classification? I'm quite sure I have games that aren't classified...

    Thank you I've often wondered at the process that Classification requires.

    As for running XP, kind of bad now that Windows 8 (3 versions ahead) is coming out. My ol' PC is still limping along with Windows XP. But if I could afford a new Gaming PC it would definitely be a Windows 7 or even 8 Based machine from day 1.

    I'd have thought the government would have at least something that was as up to date as the software they intend to test. I guess Console manufacturers just provide the new machines.

    The "Why is a Mac not a PC" discussion above is pretty funny. The modern PC is shorthand for IBM PC-Compatible. It's archaic, sure, but it's legit.

    The XP requirement is probably just an outdated bullet point.

    As far as I know they don't even play the games, they just watch selected video and read the publisher's description.

      In correct.

      Video for G-M15 expected. MA15+ expected is played in front of the censors, sometimes start to finish (I remember speaking to a PR bloke the day after he got MGS2 classified. He was exhausted because Konami wouldn't given him a build that had cheats to let him blast through the game and he had to play the whole lot start to finish in one sitting).

      The publisher determines what they feel the rating should be. They all have authorised officers that go through COB training. They then know where it should fall. Of course the classification office can say no thats MA15 you need to come in.

    You can take your own machine in and demonstrate it to the board. That is how you get around the XP conundrum

    However the problem with that is it is significantly more expensive. Given that Just Cause 2 and BF3 were going to get MA15+ if they were classified, it was an expense the publisher could justify. Because MA15+ expected games must front the board itself.

    As well as this, Just cause 2 and BF3 are on console. You get classified on console, it applies to PC version.

    Logan, interesting that you are going down this path given that in reality there is a major loop hole taht allows digital downloads to occur without going through the classification process...

    Assuming your game is DD.

    So in summary

    1) you can provide your own hardware if you front the board. You must front the board (censors) if its MA15+ expected

    2) If a game is classified via a console debug, that classification also applies to the PC version.

      If you're referring to the exemption of "mobile and online games", the latter refers to games played exclusively online (require an online connection at all times), not games that are distributed online.

    So there you have it. Mobile games / apps are of no harm to children at all and as such they do not need to be classified! It's a marvellous world we live in now where it's finally accepted that parents can actually take responsibility for the upbringing of their child and censorship isn't forced down the throat of everyone. I look forward to the time when all PCs become nothing more than relics, where everything is released as an "app" and no longer requires archaic classification.

    Looks like they updated it.

    PC games
    Games submitted for the PC platform should be compatible with one of the following operating systems: Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP Professional.

    Now, what about OSX and Linux?

    When PowerManga 2 comes out, you better believe I'm gonna be camping out on the sidewalk ;)

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