You could almost hear the collective wails of gamers around Australia last month when news broke that Valve's upcoming zombie shooter Left 4 Dead 2 had fallen afoul of local censors. The game was refused classification down under, with the Australian Classification Board finding that "the game contain[ed] realistic, frenetic and unrelenting violence which is inflicted upon 'the Infected' who are living humans infected with a rabies-like virus that causes them to act violently."
While publisher EA and Valve spokespeople have previously expressed their disappointment about the banning, few other details have been made available about how the companies plan to beat the ruling. Valve cofounder and managing director Gabe Newell changed that today, unveiling a two-pronged plan to try to get Left 4 Dead 2 to Australian shores.
Newell, who is currently visiting Sydney, Australia, told a press conference that two versions of Left 4 Dead 2 have now been resubmitted to the Australian Classification Board--the original, unaltered version and one with some modifications. While no details were made available as to what has been altered in the second version, Newell did state that Valve still wants the original version sold here, hence the dual submission.
"Right now we're pursuing two tracks: the first track is to release the product that we've created as is in Australia. This is our very strong preference and what we're working with the [Classification Board] to see if we can achieve--so we have an appeal of their decision. The issue there is that that process is fairly slow and that the next step on that isn't going to occur until October 22. At that point I start to run into problems with getting through certification with Microsoft and then getting manufactured in time in order to make November 17.
"We are going to continue to go down that path. At the same time we've also submitted an Australia-specific version of the game which we think is fully compliant with the [Classification Board's] guidelines for content. We may actually hear about that version today. So the goal is to guarantee that something will be available on November 17 in Australia while at the same time pushing to get approval for that to be the full version of the game," said Newell.
When asked how Valve would handle distribution of an update to users who may end up with a toned-down version of the game with a full-strength product passed fit for sale, Newell responded "Well, on the PC side we'd just update them so it's easy there. I don't have a real clear idea of how we would be able to provide that to Xbox customers. Our hope is to not get into that situation and have the Xbox version be available. Certainly what we would like to do is make it freely available to anybody if we had to make it available after initial shipments. That's what we're trying to avoid."
When asked whether he felt the Classification Board's ruling was in line with the release of the first Left 4 Dead game in Australia without modification, Valve project manager Erik Johnson told GameSpot AU, "It feels inconsistent, I think it's fair to say it's inconsistent."
Stay tuned to GameSpot AU as more information on the classification comes to hand.