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Australia's New Classification System Could Benefit Indie Developers

By Kevin on Apr 08 2013 05:24 PM
I think we all have somewhat of an understanding of how difficult it can be for indie (independent) video game developers. A vast majority of the games found in the 3DS and Wii U eShops were initially funded by interested fans via Kickstarter campaigns. Without strong initial fan support, games such as Mighty Switch Force!: Hyper Drive Edition, Little Inferno, Mutant Mudds, Ikachan, and Gunman Clive would never be possible. These are just a handful of titles from the huge indie library, though. Unfortunately, not every region has the same opportunity to enjoy what the indie developers have to offer. Australia is one of those regions.
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The Australian Classification system for software is one of the roadblocks that indie developers face when it comes to bringing solid titles to the eShop. A good example of this is that Mighty Switch Force!: Hyper Drive Edition still isn't available in the Australian Wii U eShop. Australia's Classification system requires indie developers to pay a classification fee. Australian gaming fansite Vooks reached out to Bruce Thompson from independent developer Nnooo for some clarification on the process.

Bruce Thompson from Nnooo said:

Australia’s classification board is currently the most expensive ratings board we deal with. Their fee is AUS$890 or AUS$1,210, depending on how much information you provide them with. There are cheaper options though, but not by much. They also have an Authorised Assessor scheme where the OFLC can train someone from a publisher or developer to assess games. The assessor’s licence needs to be reviewed annually by the OFLC. We don’t know how much this is but this scheme is run for large developers and publishers, not indies like us. If we’re lucky, we can find an Authorised Assessor to help and submit our application for a reduced fee of AUS$430.

We can sell a game in the Americas (with a population of about 1 billion) for no ratings fees, in Europe (with a population of over 700 million) for 500 Euros per platform and in Australia (23 million) for AUS$430 considering that only 2% of our revenue comes from Australian sales you can see how ridiculous this is.

These impeding struggles have been reviewed by the Australian federal government and seven different changes have been proposed to the Standing Council on Law and Justice. All State and Territory Ministers have agreed to the changes and plan to implement these reforms during the winter session of parliament in 2013.
  • broaden the type of content that is exempt from the scheme and reduce the red tape associated with running festivals
  • enable the use of automated classification decision making systems, starting with a pilot for mobile and online computer games
  • include classification marking requirements in the Commonwealth Classification Act and revamp existing statutory instruments so they are clearer and simpler
  • change the rules so that 2D and 3D versions of films or computer games no longer need to be classified twice
  • change the rules to allow minor modifications to be made to computer games without further classification
  • a program of research to examine current classification categories, symbols and community standards in relation to media content
  • give explicit power to Commonwealth officials so that they can notify law enforcement authorities of content that is potentially Refused Classification prior to classification by the Classification Board
Even if the proposed changes are limited to mobile and online-play only games, it could expand to the entire Australian video game market in the near future. Let's hope Australia sees software classification improvements in the near future so they can enjoy what everyone else enjoys.

Thanks to Nintendo Nerd LuffyFoxtrot for the news tip!

Source: Vooks, Kotaku

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Comments: 1

You go, Australia! ♥+!

So when it's summer here in the USA, Australia will hopefully reform their broken classification system and allow their talented marsupial game developers to get their games to their friends and family in their own country. I hope it all works out in the best way possible.

I love the idea behind Kickstarter, but fans shouldn't have to pay for all of that red tape nonsense. Because that broken system shouldn't be there in the first place! It reeks of downright corruption and also discrimination against the video game industry.

I propose that if this reform doesn't work out, we train an army of kangaroos, an air force of koalas, and a navy of jellyfish to fight against lawmakers! For the freedom of gamers everywhere! Who's with me?!

(Also, wombats.)