Although many pundits are predicting a change to Australia’s classification system coming soon, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's (WBIE) upcoming Mortal Kombat is the latest game to fall victim to Australia's outdated classification rules. WBIE's Australian division today confirmed retailer rumours that its reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise had been refused classification.
The company issued a statement confirming the ban and calling for the introduction of a mature rating for games Down Under. "The highly anticipated video game Mortal Kombat, published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (WBIE) in Australia, has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board and will not release in Australia. We are extremely disappointed that Mortal Kombat, one of the world's oldest and most successful video games franchises, will not be available to mature Australian gamers. WBIE would not market mature content where it is not appropriate for the audience. We understand that not all content is for every audience, but there is an audience for mature gaming content and it would make more sense to have the R18+ classification in Australia. As a member of the iGEA [Interactive Games & Entertainment Association], WBIE is reviewing all options available at this time."
As the Australian Classification Board is yet to release documentation related to the ruling, speculation remains around which content was deemed unsuitable. GameSpot AU is awaiting the full board report from the Classification Board detailing the offending elements. Mortal Kombat may yet make it to Aussie shores, with WBIE refusing to rule out appeal to the Classification Review Board or modification of the game for the region.
However, with the New South Wales government preparing for the upcoming March election, there is little chance of a decision on R18+ for video games being made at the upcoming SCAG meeting. In order for an R18+ classification to be introduced, there needs to be unanimous approval between the various state and territory censorship ministers.
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU for breaking details. For more information on R18+ in Australia, read our comprehensive Classification FAQ feature.
[UPDATE] GameSpot AU has received and reviewed the Classification Board's official report on Mortal Kombat. The document makes note of what the board believes is "explicit" violence, making numerous mentions of "bloodspray" and limb dismemberment during fatalities, which made it unable to be accommodated within the maximum MA15+ guidelines.
"Kung Lao throws his metal hat into the ground and it spins like a buzz saw. He grabs his prone opponent by the ankles and drags their body through the saw, explicitly slicing them vertically in half. Copious bloodspray is noted. Kung Lao then holds up both halves of the corpse as blood pours out," reads the report.
It goes on to say that "The game includes over 60 fatalities (some of which are noted above), which contain explicit depictions of dismemberment, decapitation, disembowelment, and other brutal forms of slaughter. Despite the exaggerated conceptual nature of the fatalities and their context within a fighting game set in a fantasy realm, impact is heightened by the use of graphics which are realistically rendered and very detailed. In the opinion of the board, the game contains violence that exceeds strong in impact and is unsuitable for a minor to see or play. The game should therefore be Refused Classification pursuant to item 1(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Board."
[UPDATE 2]: Aussie retailer EB Games has weighed in on the news, siding with local gamers and publishers and using the opportunity to show its support for a mature rating for games. National brand & marketing manager, Debra McGrath, told GameSpot AU that "The news that Mortal Kombat has been refused classification in Australia is extremely disappointing and further demonstrates our need for an R18+ classification.
"Once again adult Australian gamers are being denied the privilege of playing a game that will be readily available around the world. Although this will prevent local retailers selling Mortal Kombat, history would also suggest the game will still be in abundance in Australia due to overseas copies being imported into the country."