At the start of this week, we reported that Kingdom Come: Deliverance had been refused classification in Australia. The game was one of several to be slapped with an RC this year, although the circumstances around KCD were a little strange: the latest DLC had been available for months, and the game had been rated R18 in May ahead of the release of the Royal Edition.
Developers Warhorse Games, their publishers Koch Media and the Classification Board made no mention of the ban until early this morning. But it might have been all for nothing, with the original Refused Classification rating vanishing, and having been replaced with a R18 rating instead.
It's an unusual situation because refused classification ratings usually stay on the Classification Board website, even if the rating is later revoked or replaced by a human review or an official Review Board appeal.
Here's screenshots from the Classification Board listings when I first reported about the ban:
The important part of the listing here is the classification number: 102354440. The application was filed by Koch Media GmbH through the IARC classification tool, and even though it's an automated process ratings assigned by IARC have the same legal force as reviews by members of the Classification Board.
As of this morning, the RC rating has vanished from the website and been replaced with an R18 rating:
The individual listing confirms that it's the exact same IARC application that is now showing as R18, instead of Refused Classification, too.
Why has the same application been given two ratings?
The official IARC website notes that developers can get a review on any game or app that's been rated through the IARC system, without having to go through the formal process with the Classification Board. IARC isn't a tool just for Australia — it covers most of Europe, North America, Brazil, South Korea and Australia, so there are going to be times where the system fails.
That said, if someone lodges a challenge to the IARC rating (as in, the IARC tool was wrong rather than "we believe this game should be rated R18 instead of RC") the reviews are still conducted by the relevant ratings agency — which in this case in the Classification Board.
"Developers will have to include a brief explanation of why the rating should be different and may be asked to provide supporting evidence — such as video clips or a build of the game or app — so that the rating check request can be evaluated by the rating authority(s) in question," the IARC FAQ says.
It's a weird situation that's frustrating and confusing, but it's worth remembering amongst all of this that the IARC automated tool, on the whole, is an outstanding net benefit for everyone involved. Manual classification applications aren't cheap: it can cost thousands if you need to demo your game in front of the Board (or if the Board requests a live presentation), and even if you're just sending over a recording of gameplay, the game and all the forms, there's still a four figure application fee attached.
But IARC applications are entirely free, which is enormously helpful to indie developers and smaller studios that can't afford thousands of dollars in applications for every part of the world they want to sell their game.
I've contacted the Classification Board, Warhorse Studios, Kingdom Come: Deliverance's director and Koch Media's Australian representatives for a response, but none had replied by the time of publication. Daniel Vavra, however, quipped that he "should not visit Australia in order not to be arrested for my crimes".
I feel young again! Last time I experienced censorship was during my childhood in a communist country. #GoodOldTimes #ThoughtPolice I guess I should not visit Australia in order not to be arrested for my crimes - which is having a lead female char attacked by enemies in a game. https://t.co/KWQllWDzvf
— Daniel Vávra ⚔ (@DanielVavra) August 21, 2019
Update: The Classification Board responded just as this story was published, responding some outstanding queries I'd levelled prior to KCD's ban.
In regards to IARC classifications, they said the following:
· The IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) Tool produces classifications for digitally delivered games for Australia.
· IARC decisions are determined to be decisions of the Classification Board.
· The IARC tool is a classification questionnaire tool that enables game developers to classify online and mobile games available in participating storefronts.
· The IARC tool is programmed to automatically generate classifications tailored to each participating country’s classification criteria.
· Different versions of a game may result in different classifications.