It was announced today that the government plans to “close a loophole” and require games released on the iPhone and other smartphones to apply for classification, at an expense per title of between $400 and $2000. This will have two inevitable impacts on the Australian development community.

Firstly it will result in many (nearly all) titles simply not being released in this territory, meaning that one of the great appeals of the iPhone (having access to a large amount of content easily) will go away. Very few developers will be willing to pay extra to gain access to the Australian market on the possibility that they may be able to recoup their money. Iphone development is a very hit and miss affair, and this proposal just makes misses an order of magnitude more expensive.

Secondly, this will have a brutal impact on local development. Developers will have to choose either to take the risk and pay the costs, or simply release their games everywhere else except Australia. Australian developers rely on Australian audiences to help them build global brands. Products like Fruit Ninja gain local attention and then use that to spread their wings internationally, with great success.

Certainly that was the case with Cluck It! for us. It’s initial release was spread throughout our (primarily local) networks, which helped us gain the attention we needed to get featured on the local app store. From there, we rapidly spread internationally, gaining tens of thousands of new customers from around the world.

This really seems like a case of the government acting at cross purposes to itself. On one hand, we had state and federal representatives present at this weekends excellent Freeplay conference advising independent developers how to gain government support for their initiatives. On the other, we have Brendan O’Connor making statements that potentially put the (currently thriving) local independents at risk.


  1. Gail on 08.16.2010

    Maybe a “not for profit” (said with very much inverted commas as I am not really sure where the boundaries of that idea are) cost for indy games. Its pretty easy with the itunes model to track profits etc. and put indy game design in the same kind of no GST rules as actors and other creative types. Could that work?

  2. Jake on 08.16.2010

    The page you link to is a newspaper article, not a government announcement. Why don’t we all ask our local representatives what the government’s policy is before assuming the article is correct? While we’re at it, we could explain the impact this policy might have on local development.

    FInd your local MP here:

  3. @thorfi on 08.16.2010

    @Gail: Doubtful – independent media productions still need ACMA classification before they can be sold, or else some kind of exemption at least. It’s not the tax, it’s the Australian classification rules that are the issue.

  4. Brett Dalton on 08.16.2010

    Interestingly if AU users can access an international market then there is no issue. It’s not illegal to posses RC content, just to sell it. If the transaction is happening outside Australia then the whole situation becomes a little unclear. If the company selling is also not AU then you could work around this. However with iPhones this becomes a massive pain.

    I think that this a case where closing an easily explioted loophole is going to have ugly consequences. Censorship shouldn’t be a case of “how much money are you making”, and in a lot of cases i don’t think it should apply, but that said there needs to be a better way of dealing with this that trying to apply a 1 size fits all approach.

  5. Morgan Jaffit on 08.16.2010

    @Jake : Good point – I’ll follow up with the local reps on the morrow. Thanks for the push!

  6. arash on 08.17.2010

    Yes, yes, all very well for ACMA to be made our Cerberus when it’s got a completely bloody different mandate in its role as TV’s Complaints-Based-Arbiter. What makes these bloody fools think we need nannying when they let the likes of the free-to-air and cable commercial channels run riot until some granny in Wagga write in to complain about something?

    All this too when here we were thinking the OFLC was supposed to be the games monitor? That said, a gypsy curse on all these useless bastards – It’s not like any of them are doing a bang up job at keeping judgements free from confusion and inconsistency.

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