Australians have long become used to their draconian classification system for video games, with the lack of an R18+ rating designating some mature titles to the banned bin. But one type of game has curiously evaded the attention of Australia’s Classification Board so far--massively multiplayer online games.
MMO games such as World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, and others currently sit on Australian shelves without an official rating, seemingly in contrast with Australian law which clearly states that all games must carry a rating. But Blizzard Entertainment is hoping to change all that, with the announcement this morning that its widely popular massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft has been classified down under.
The Classification Board of Australia has rated World of Warcraft and its expansions, The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. The games will now carry an M rating, for “fantasy violence,” as well as new consumer advice stating “online content variable.” Since its release in 2004, World of Warcraft has been sold in Australia without a classification. According to a Blizzard spokesperson, this is something the publisher has tried to rectify before.
“Blizzard Entertainment has always worked closely with the Classification Board for all its titles,” Blizzard told GameSpot AU. “However, back in 2004, we were advised by the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) that the online-only nature of World of Warcraft was unclassifiable under its definition of computer games at that time. Recent changes at the Classification Board have led to their ability to classify online-only games such as World of Warcraft.”
But the Australian Classification Board remains adamant that its stance and definition of what constitutes a "computer game" has not changed since 2004, when World of Warcraft was first submitted.
“It is the Board's view that World of Warcraft meets the definition of a computer game provided in the Classification Act and therefore can be classified,” the Board told GameSpot AU. "This is consistent with the intention of the National Classification Scheme to provide parents and consumers with classification advice on the content of games.”
The Classification Board would not comment on what “recent changes” the department has undergone in order to make it easier to classify online games, only saying that:
“The Classification Board has been following developments in online gaming.”
For more in-depth coverage of this issue, check out GameSpot AU’s latest feature, Playing By the Rules: Classifying Online Video Games in Australia.