Saturday, 21 August 2010

Classification costs

Australia considers requiring mobile application games be classified by its censor's office. That would cost $470-$2400 per game. Josh Gans notes the likely effects:
This would cause several things. First, literally thousands of overseas developed games would be removed from the various mobile application stores in Australia. Most of these do not cover the developer costs and even those that may have in the past may not do so in the future. Not to mention the cost of applying for classification. The effect on Australian consumers would be immediate. Second, this would have an impact on local developers. Fortunately, with regard to games, most of their sales are elsewhere. But we will see a headline within a year: “Australian teenager has hit mobile game but her friends cannot play it.” Nonetheless, there will be a disproportionately negative impact on developers who are trying to tailor games to the local market. Third, this will end up including educational games and books. For instance, Dr Seuss books on the iPad have little games in them. I assume that means they require classification. Maybe popular children’s books won’t be impacted but there will be many other educational apps that will be and this will spark further headlines. Fourth, apps that use Apple’s iAds will be impacted as these ads may include games in them. Finally, all of this will cause Australians to either pirate games in droves — indeed, they may do so just to get games that are actually free elsewhere! — or move to overseas app stores. My guess is that rules imposed internally by Apple and co that prevent purchases by Australians from say, New Zealand will be relaxed. This will alleviate the harm of all this but it will be a very bad look. Need I say, that this is as much a problem for Apple and Google as it is for developers and consumers. In other words, the doom and gloom forecasted may well occur.
Gans reckons an easier solution is to require gamemakers to self-classify but to impose harsh penalties for inaccurate classification. I expect this would have much the same effect, with most foreign providers seeing little point in exposing themselves to Australian legal risks. The Australian censor's office is known for bizarre decisions.

Previously: Classification costs keep a lot of niche films from being available in New Zealand.

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