It's only a few weeks into the new year and Australia's restrictive game classification system has already taken its first scalp, with Xbox 360 sports game Blitz: The League being refused classification down under.
Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) has refused classification for Midway's American football game, effectively banning it for sale down under. Blitz: The League was set for release in Australia on February 22. The official ruling from the OFLC states that the game was refused classification because of in-game drug use.
"In the course of the game, the player may access what are purported to be both legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs for the members of the team. Choosing to use these drugs (by selecting from a menu) will have both negative and positive effects on team-members, for example, by improving their speed while making them more susceptible to injury. Each drug has different characteristics. Fake urine samples may also be acquired for avoiding positive drug tests. While the game-player can choose not to use the drugs, in the Board’s majority view there is an incentive to use them. By using them judiciously, the player can improve the performance of the football team (while managing the negative effects) and have a better chance of winning games, thereby winning bets and climbing the league table," the OFLC board report stated.
Under the Australian Computer Games Table of the National Classification Code, titles that "depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults" will be refused classification.
Red Ant Enterprises, the local distributor for Blitz: The League, has yet to decide whether it will appeal the ruling, according to marketing manager Ivone Bozzi.
"At this stage we haven't decided if we are going to go ahead and appeal it. Quite a shame, as we did get some fantastic feedback from retail. It was unfortunately one of those games that are touch-and-go," she said.
Blitz joins a growing list of games that have been banned for sale down under. Last year, Eidos' Reservoir Dogs was refused classification, as was Mark Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure. Other games to feel the wrath of the OFLC include BMX XXX, Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude, Postal, Postal 2, Narc and more. Some games, such as the two GTA games listed, eventually made it back onto the market after some content changes.
Under Australian law, computer games can be given a maximum classification of MA15+, as opposed to film or DVDs, which can carry up to an R18+ rating (the R rating prohibits sales to anyone under the age of 18). Any games that do not fit under the OFLC's definition of MA15+ are refused classification.