With bipartisan support, the Australian Parliament has passed a law creating an “R18+” rating for mature video games which will allow retailers to sell many violent and controversial titles for the first time.
The new category is comparable to a “Mature” from the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) in the U.S. and provides a content label above the previous ceiling of “15+” (similar to ESRB’s “Teen”). In the past, developers have had to either modify or remove certain content from a disputed title to get the lower rating or face the possibility of a total retail ban, as was the case with developer Starbreeze Studios’ Syndicate last year.
“These are important reforms over 10 years in the making,” Jason Clare, Australia’s Minister of Home Affairs told news.com.au. “The R18+ category will inform consumers, parents, and retailers about which games are not suitable for minors to play and will prevent minors from purchasing unsuitable material. The reforms also mean that adults are able to choose what games they play within the bounds of the law.”
Australian states and territories have pledged to pass their own laws to enforce the new rating, which goes into effect on January 1, 2013.