Since Australia first implemented the R18+ rating in its classification guidelines, seventeen titles have been marked with it. Seven titles that may otherwise have been banned in Australia. However, despite the progress, it appears that the bans will continue. Today the Australia ratings board announced Saints Row IV had been denied classification, effectively banning the game in its current form.
Here is the board's notes on why Saints Row IV current form was effectively banned:
"In the Board’s opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are prohibited by the computer games guidelines."
In other words, the ratings board decided it had been a bit too long since the last time they'd banned a game and Saints Row IV makes for an easy target for politicians looking to be reelected/reappointed. It's a sad day when a government body denies adults the ability to judge a game's worth themselves, because apparently even adults aren't meant to experience some video game content.
Nevertheless, as is typical for this sort of excessive government control, the result is not a banning but instead simple censorship. Deep Silver has released a statement stating that Volition is hard at work creating a version of the game that will meet Australia's nonsensical guidelines. How does that conversation even start: "Okay team, we've got two lists here. Content adults can play and content adults can't play. Split everything in the game up for Australia."
Here's Deep Silver's full, and very respectful, response:
"Deep Silver can confirm that Saints Row IV was denied an age classification in Australia. Volition, the developer, are reworking some of the code to create a version of the game for this territory by removing the content which could cause offence without reducing the outlandish gameplay that Saints Row fans know and love. Saints Row IV has been awarded PEGI 18 and ESRB M ratings where fans can enjoy their time in Steelport as originally intended."
Apart from the "classification refusal" itself there was only comment provided by the Australian Classification board. Mr Donald McDonald, Acting Director, patted himself on the back about how they'd classified 17 games under R18+ and Saints Row IV would only be the first to be banned. How encouraged you must feel, sir. Thank goodness we have someone looking out for moral fiber of adults in Australia.
This is why the United States' Supreme Court ruling that games are art is so important, everyone. I'd recommend Australian fans check out some great digital releases for Saints Row IV. Don't **** with the POTUS.
Update: Kotaku has acquire the official text of the report and confirmed that the specific items that ended up resulting in Saints Row IV's ban were in fact: an alien anal probe weapon and several references to "alien narcotics" that give the player super powers.
Here's the text of the report for the alien anal probes:
"The game includes a weapon referred to by the Applicant as an “Alien Anal Probe”. The Applicant states that this weapon can be “shoved into enemy’s backsides”. The lower half of the weapon resembles a sword hilt and the upper part contains prong-like appendages which circle around what appears to be a large dildo which runs down the centre of the weapon. When using this weapon the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and thrusts the weapon between the victim’s legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air. After the probe has been implicitly inserted into the victim’s anus the area around their buttocks becomes pixelated highlighting that the aim of the weapon is to penetrate the victim’s anus. The weapon can be used during gameplay on enemy characters or civilians. In the Board’s opinion, a weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context and as such the game should be Refused Classification."
... and then the text pertaining to alien narcotics:
"The game contains an optional mission which involves the player obtaining and smoking drugs referred to as “alien narcotics”. Smoking the “alien narcotics” equips the player with “superpowers” which increase their in-game abilities allowing them to progress through the mission more easily."