It's June, which means it's time for the Entertainment Merchants Association, the Digital Media Association (DiMA), Music Business Association (Music Biz), and National Association of Theatre Owners to remind consumers that this month is "Entertainment Ratings and Labeling Awareness Month." This coalition of trade groups representing various industries has chosen June as the month to raise awareness on all the ratings systems available for entertainment - something they have been doing annually since 2004.
Russia's ratings agency that handles video games has given The Sims 4 an 18+ age rating due to the inclusion of same-sex relationships. The game violates a law that protects children from "information harmful to their health and development."
The Sims Russia Twitter account announced earlier this week that the game had earned the restrictive rating. Previous Sims games released in the region have all been rated T (Teen) or 12+ but a law passed in 2010 is the reason for the more restrictive rating.
While Australia's government pushes for an automated solution to speed up the work of the Classification Board (the government ratings agency in charge of classifying ratings for games and other forms of entertainment) in the country, civil liberties groups and anti-pornography groups in the country are sounding alarm bells.
UK video games industry trade group TIGA has written an open letter to European game content rating system PEGI calling for a review and adjustment of its pricing policy, which the groups claims is charging indie developers in the UK "unreasonably high and repetitious fees." TIGA wrote the letter in response to complaints from its members about PEGI’s pricing policy.
According to this Destructoid blog (from a reader named "Lord Spencer" who lives in Saudi Arabia), the government has banned the Square Enix 3DS game Bravely Default for promoting sexual behavior in children and pedophilia. While it is not at all shocking that the government in this country bans a particular game, the reasoning for the Bravely Default ban is as over-the-top as one can get.
Watch Dogs has been reclassified in Australia and will come with more content warnings when it is released this Spring, according to CVG. The open-world hacking-themed action game was originally classified by the Australian Classification Board in September last year with a rating of MA15+.
A number of scenes have been cut from South Park: Stick of Truth to get the game a lower rating in Europe. According to a BT Games report citing a document given to the publication by publisher Ubisoft, at least seven 20-second scenes were removed from the European version of the game.
New research from financial analytics firm EEDAR concludes that software reviews matter more in the early part of a console's life cycle. The new research from EEDAR provided to GamesIndustry International this morning shows a stronger correlation between review scores and sales early in a platform's lifespan.
Australians hoping that the new R18+ ratings system would finally allow them to play the same games the rest of the world is playing (save Germany, which has an even stricter system in place) will be sad to hear that the version of South Park: The Stick of Truth they'll get will be a modified experience.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has released a new public service announcement on its YouTube channel to highlight and promote the ESRB's video games ratings system and the parental controls they can use to keep their kids from playing inappropriate games.
In last week's poll we asked our readers, "What do you think about Metacritic?." Around 367 votes were cast, with the majority of voters saying that the review aggregation site isn't a bad thing, it is just being used incorrectly.
German gaming site Games Welt reported last night (thanks to Cheater87 for sending this in) that the BPJM (Bundeprüfstelle für Jugendgefährende Medien), Germany's entertainment software self-regulation body, has refused to rate Capcom's Xbox One launch title, Dead Rising 3, effectively banning it from release within the region.
Sony has confirmed that the European release of Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls has been censored. Sony says that around 5-10 seconds of footage has been edited in the European release so that the game could get a PEGI 16 rating. Sony did not say just what exactly censors in Europe found so offensive as to have it altered to avoid a higher rating, but one would guess it relates to gratuitously violent scenes. As a general rule, having wanton violence in a game is a good way to get a PEGI 18 rating under the European ratings system...
South Australia Attorney General John Rau recently told the Australian Broadcasting Network (ABC) that the country's new video game classification (R18+, which went into effect in January of this year) rules are not being applied properly to games and the ratings process needs further scrutiny from the country's policy makers.
The ESRB has updated its video games rating search app in an effort to improve the information parents have access to when making decisions about the appropriateness of a purchase for their children. The ESRB recently expanded its rating system to offer more details on "interactive elements" associated with digital games and apps, such as the sharing of personal information, sharing location-based data with others, or the ability for users to interact, communicate, or share media like photos or videos.
Earlier this year a trailer for Grand Theft Auto V gave the public a glimpse at an odd vending machine that apparently allowed players to buy marijuana. At first people thought it was a bit of a goof, but it turns out that pot smoking is in GTA V, alongside the usual amounts of violence, criminal activities, sexual content, and other drug use.
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), the trade group representing the interactive entertainment industry in Australia, thinks that the rating system there is a mess and that the board that oversees it is more a hindrance than a help.
IGEA CEO Ron Curry says that the whole system needs to be overhauled because the classification system is dysfunctional and administered by a handful of government bureaucrats. He thinks that the system needs a serious revamp and that it needs to be administered by members of the industry instead.
After being refused classification and losing an appeal on the first submission, Saint's Row IV has finally managed to secure a rating in Australia by the Australian Classification Board. After a modified version of the game was resubmitted, the Australian Classification Board classified the game as MA15+. At issue was a mission that contained the use of "alien narcotics" which improved the super powers of players for a limited time within the game. Publisher Deep Silver and developer Volition decided to remove the mission from the game.
Take Two Interactive's and Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V passed through the Australian Classification Board review process and survived, earning an R18+ rating for the region. Many were concerned that the game might end up getting refused classification on its first pass through the process much like Saint's Row IV and State of Decay did earlier this year. Saint's Row IV still remains effectively banned in the region, even after the game went through a second review earlier this week.
It looks like the unedited version of Saint's Row IV will not manage to get an R18+ rating in Australia. Re-reviewing the original decision, a three-person panel of the Australian Classification Review Board reaffirmed the ban and refused to classify the game. This effectively bans the sale of the game in the region on all platforms.
On this week's show (Episode 62) hosts Andrew Eisen and E. Zachary Knight talk about the very public meltdown and rage-quit of Fez developer Phil Fish, Nintendo's decision to remove content from the next Super Smash Bros. game because of the Internet, Australia's hypocrisy when it comes to game ratings and drugs; and the results of last week's poll on Game Politics. Download Episode 62 now: SuperPAC Episode 62 (1 hour, 1 minute) 56.5 MB.
The Video Standards Council has published its first annual report since it was designated as the UK's regulatory body for classifying video games on July 30, 2012. The report covers the last 5 months of 2012, and offers a brief history of the VSC, a description of what it does, and how it uses PEGI in the UK for all types of games.
The most interesting aspect of the new report is just how many games were classified and under what category for the UK.
You may recall that way back in June that Saints Row IV was officially the first game to be refused classification under the new ratings system in Australia. The Classification Board rejected the game (effectively issuing a ban on the sale of it in the region) because it contained content that the board felt was above and beyond the highest rating a game can get in the country - R18+.
Undead Labs' zombie-survival action game State of Decay is no longer banned in Australia. The game has been granted an R18+ adult rating by the Classification Board, paving the way for it to be sold in Australia. Undead Labs resubmitted a modified version of the game that removed and replaced the contents that the Board found to be beyond the pale - interactive drug use that directly benefited gameplay.
GameSpot Australia is reporting that Undead Labs has resubmitted its zombie themed action game State of Decay to the Australian Classification Board.