Game retailers in Australia have been told they risk heavy fines or even imprisonment if they continue to sell massively multiplayer online games that have not been classified by the Australian Classification Board.
Online games like World of Warcraft
, Warhamer Online
, Age of Conan
and Pirates of the Burning Sea
have previously been understood not to require a classification, due to the variable nature of the online experience.
However, New South Wales (NSW) Attorney-General John Hatzistergos has changed his approach, insisting that publishers and retailers are prohibited from selling unclassified video games in Australia. As such, he has called for members of the public to report any retailer illegally selling such games.
Retailers or individuals caught selling unclassified games face a fine of between $1,100 and $11,000 or up to 12 months in prison. For corporations, the fines are approximately double the individual figures.
As cited by The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Hatzistergos stated
plainly that: "The NSW legislation covers computer games bought online as well as those bought in stores, and treats single, multi-player and online games the same way."
Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA) CEO Ron Curry has attempted to argue the opposite, stating that: "If such a game is hosted locally it falls under the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Services Act, but if it is hosted internationally, it’s classified in the country that hosts the game, rather than in Australia."
The news is the latest example of a continually challenging relationship between the Australian lawmakers and the video games industry, which has long complained at the lack of an age rating beyond 15+ for any title sold in the country. Australian authorities have been adamant that a new 18+ rating
is not necessary, leading to many games being censored or refused release.