Despite the introduction of an official R18+ rating in 2013, Australia's classification system for videogames still faces many challenges moving forward.
Working with the Australian Classification Board (ACB) has often been problematic for many developers and publishers, with prolonged localisations often partially being a result of the current rating process. Yacht Club Games' locally released Shovel Knight, available on the Wii U and 3DS eShop, was the most recent example of this on Nintendo digital platforms.
The Australian Government now appears eager to establish a new take on the classification process in time for the embrace of the digital age, with the Minster for Justice, Michael Keenan, today announcing Australia will trial an international classification tool for 12 months, enabling the local classification system to keep pace with the latest mobile and online games while better informing users.
In conjunction with this announcement, Australia has joined the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a partnership of government and industry content classification authorities from around the world, including the US, Canada, Europe and Brazil.
Online storefronts using the IARC tool will require game developers to obtain certification via a questionnaire about the content featured within their game. The IARC tool then assigns the game with a local classification to each member country or region based on standards set by authorities. Local ratings will follow the existing standards already in place, and the ACB will have the power to revoke ratings if they are deemed inaccurate.
According to Australia's Interactive Games & Entertainment Association CEO, Ron Curry, the IARC tool is free for developers to use, whereas the fees to currently have a game rated by the ACB ranges between AU$890 to AU$1210 depending on supporting material provided, or up to AU$2460 if the board needs a representative of a developer to demonstrate a game.
If the trial proves successful, this would make life easier for game creators – particularly indie developers – to get their digital titles classified in Australia.