Earlier this week, people noticed something odd about the classification rating for Call of Duty: WW2 in Australia. It was first rated R18+ in August, and rated R18+ again on Monday.
So why did Activision ask the Classification Board to re-rate the game in the first place?
Update [October 25]: Activision has provided a statement to Kotaku Australia, saying that the version of Call of Duty: WWII released in Australia will be the same one released worldwide:
The Australian version of Call of Duty: WWII is the same version scheduled for release worldwide on November 3.
The rest of the story appears as it was originally published below.
If you filter the recent decisions on the Classification Board's website, you can see one small difference in the rating for COD: WW2. Namely, the inclusion of "threat of sexual violence":
Image: Classification Board
Obviously, this was referring to something in the campaign. But what changed? I emailed the Classification Board, and they replied that Activision had submitted a modified version of COD: WW2.
"On 13 October 2017, Activision Publishing applied to the Australian Classification Board to classify a modified version of the game Call of Duty: WWII," the board said via email. "On 17 October 2017, the Australian Classification Board classified the modified game R 18+ with consumer advice of 'High impact violence, online interactivity'."
So, what changed?
According to the Classification Board, the original version of Call of Duty: WW2 contained "a reference to sexual violence that is justified by context", but not visually displayed or incentivised.
In one section of the game, the player controls Rosseau, a female spy, as she infiltrates a German building. While inside, she witnesses a woman as she is dragged by a Nazi soldier into a closet, against her will, screaming, "You're all pigs!"
Rosseau opes the closet door, as the soldier says, "Leave. This is none of your business." The player is then given the option to kill the soldier or leave.
If the player chooses to leave, the player closes the door, as the soldier is heard unziping his fly and viewed advancing towards the woman. She screams, "Ah! Get away from me!" as Rosseau leaves.
It is implied that the soldier is going to sexually assault the woman, but at no time is the assault depicted.
Pretty straightforward, as far as the Classification Board's justification for a warning of "threat of sexual violence" goes.
According to the board, Activision's modified version of the game altered the woman's clothing. It also removed the audio track of the NPC soldier unzipping his fly:
In the Board's opinion, the modifications to this game - which include the change of dress for the female prisoner (was in a skirt and top, now in a pants and top) and the removal of audio that implies a soldier is unzipping his pants - do not contain any classifiable elements that alter this classification or exceed a R18+ impact level.
In the Board's opinion, the removal of the audio track means that consumer advice of threat of sexual violence is not required. Therefore, this modified computer game warrants an R18+ classification with consumer advice of high impact violence [and] online interactivity.
The report from this week also added a note - more of a reminder to publishers, really - that the Classification Board "must revoke the classification" if any classified game contains contentious material that wasn't brought to their attention during the application process.
Basically, don't go adding stuff later on through DLC or codes that's more contentious than the stuff they've already seen.
That's not likely to happen though, since no publisher wants their game pulled from sale. And not having "threat of sexual violence" on your packaging is obviously a big deal, otherwise Activision wouldn't have gone to the trouble to adjust the scene in question, and have the game rated a second time.
I've asked Activision's local PR whether the new COD: WW2 scene will be rolled out to all territories, or just gamers in Australia. They didn't have an answer at the time of publication, but when I hear back from them I'll let you know what their response is.