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WoW Bucks Aussie Norms, Gets M Rating

The much-maligned Classification Board of Australia has made a small stride toward getting in step with global game ratings by applying an M rating to Blizzard's World of Warcraft.
The much-maligned Classification Board of Australia has made a small stride toward getting in step with global game ratings by applying an M rating to Blizzard's World of Warcraft. Unlike most of its neighbors around the world, the Australian ratings system lacks a classification for mature titles, as the U.S. has with the ESRB's M rating -- which means titles that would fall into this category can't be rated, and are effectively banned without edits to objectionable content. Australia's system, however, has long lacked any rating whatsoever for massively multiplayer online games; rather than barring them for sale, however, this ratings gap means MMOs are simply unrated on retail shelves. According to consumer site GameSpot, however, Blizzard has attained what it hopes is progress through a rating for its explosively popular WoW, which will now carry an M rating for "fantasy violence." The game has been sold without classification in Australia since 2004, and Blizzard told the site it's worked to change this in the past. "Blizzard Entertainment has always worked closely with the Classification Board for all its titles," Blizzard said. "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." In the U.S., boxed retail with online components are rated on their content, but warnings firmly declare that online interactions themselves are unable to be rated by the ESRB, as the presence of others adds an unpredictable component. The Australian Classification Board insists that the rating of WoW is no departure from its usual policy about what constitutes a "computer game." "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. "This is consistent with the intention of the National Classification Scheme to provide parents and consumers with classification advice on the content of games."

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