Sales fall, piracy rises in wake of censored games

Atkinson gets threat letter from gamer

These five games were refused classification by Australia’s classification board, the OFLC. Thanks to the lack of a mature R18+ rating in Australia, these games were either modified to a watered-down content level or pulled from sale altogether.

These five games were refused classification by Australia’s classification board, the OFLC. Thanks to the lack of a mature R18+ rating in Australia, these games were either modified to a watered-down content level or pulled from sale altogether.

The lack of an R18+ classification for electronic games has been linked to an increase in piracy and poor sales of titles that were toned-down to meet Australia’s top M15+ rating.

Efforts to push for a R18+ rating have increased in recent weeks after the Federal Government called for public comment on the topic of introducing a higher classification rating.

Previous considerations of the rating – which would bring Australia in line with classification law in most countries – were rejected by South Australian attorney-general Michael Atkinson.

All state attorney-generals must support the changes for the rating to come into effect.

Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) CEO Ron Curry said while Atkinson had agreed to post-election talks, Australian retailers were losing money to piracy and overseas imports.

“Sales are significantly less for modified games,” Curry said. “People will import the full unmodified game over the Internet or get a pirate version.

“[Atkinson] has told me he will discuss the issue with me after the election,” he added.

However, Curry conceded Atkinson would be a “roadblock” to the classification law if he did not change his vehement opposition to the R18+ proposal. The iGEA yesterday submitted its response to the call for public comment by the communication watchdog.

The Australian video games market peaked at $1.96 billion in 2008, according to iGEA statistics, with software sales rising by 57 per cent, consoles by 43 per cent and other hardware by 68 per cent.

Local Sega game developer Dan Toose said the classification laws did not have a big impact on Australian game development, but said it could cost developer studios millions to redesign titles to be passed under the M15+ rating.

"What really takes the time is quality assurance testing, which can take more than two weeks... it can cost modern game development studios half a million dollars a month to [modify] games," Toose said. "It is bad to put that on the shoulders of developers."

Toose said the opposition to the law "makes no sense whatever" because the R18+ classification was recognised as distinctly adult content. He said the new rating would stop children being exposed to more graphic content that is squeezed into the M15+ rating under the current scheme.

A threatening note was allegedly slipped under the door of Atkinson’s South Australian home in the early hours of this morning, attacking the SA attorney-general for his opposition to the R18+ rating.

He told ABC TV's Good Game program that “my family is at more risk from gamers than from outlaw motorcycle gangs, who also hate me and are running a candidate against me [in the next state elections]”.

He said his electoral office was regularly “spammed” but did not say whether this was the handiwork of angry gamers.

iGEA's Curry said such personal attacks on the SA attorney-general were “disgusting” and damaging to the case for an R18+ classification.

“It is absolutely pointless and counter-productive to the cause… it perpetuates the gamer stereotype which the industry has spent time trying to dispel. It is the one per cent of idiots that wreck it for the rest,” Curry said.

Up to 68 per cent of Australians play electronic games, according to the iGEA.

Three years ago women gamers accounted for 5 per cent of all gamers. They now accounted for 41 per cent, according to the iGEA.

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