Classification fees threaten Australian app market

Developers could withdraw content from the country if legal loophole is closed

Smartphone app developers have threatened to stop selling their products in Australia if the government continues with its plans to close the legal loophoole which allows them to avoid the county's expensive classification process - a process applied to all other games.

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that the process could cost developers between Aus $470 (273) and Aus $2040 (1187) per game, which could easily outweigh any potential revenues from Australia's relatively small app market.

The move follows a letter from Australia's Classification Board director Donald McDonald to Commonwealth Censorship Minister Brendan O'Connor.

"I recently wrote to the minister regarding my concern that some so-called mobile phone applications, which can be purchased online or either downloaded to mobile phones or played online via mobile phone access, are not being submitted to the board for classification," Mr McDonald told a Senate Estimates committee last year.

Bjango founder Marc Edwards, whose company is based in Australia, told the Sydney Morning Herald that closing the loophole would see Bjango cease to do app business in the country. Australian purchases account for only 4 per cent of the company's app sales.

"I understand that there's certainly a desire to treat [mobile game apps] in the same light [as PC-based games], but I think they're built and consumed in quite a different way and I think iPhone games may be a little closer to flash games on websites, certainly in some cases where they're small titles rather than [blockbuster] titles with large budgets and large timelines," Mr Edwards said.

The Morning Herald report also claims that some developers are sceptical about the government's plans, believing them to be a cynical play to increase revenue. The Herald reports that an assumed price of Aus $2000 per app could see classification of mobile apps on iTunes make $345 million a year for the Classification Board.

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Latest comments (4)

James Taylor Studying Games and Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology9 years ago
Sometimes I feel so bummed out being an Aussie.
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This is just the leading wave - its bound to happen in Australia, and almost certainly be followed up by other countries.

Why should a retail release of title 'X' require classification, when the exact same game, with the same content be able to bypass classification just by releasing on different platforms?

To counter this, classification needs to become (much) cheaper, simpler & faster - and available for all applications, on all platforms.

Be interesting to see "how" this works though, given that most phone-based app stores are "global" - not country based. On Android phones, its pretty easy to just download any app, from any website.
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Justin Jackson8 years ago
By releasing an absurd figure of $300+M that the good taxpaying people of Australia are apparently missing out on will do the world of good... So long as the 4-5 codes of football that are clearly everyones cup-of-tea are worshiped as their supposed to be, the *cough*games industry*cough* is "somthing we can look into" I recently heard one politician quote.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
Australia ratting system was absurd to me... now on top of that it happens to be expensive.

Im really sorry for Aussie gamers and everyone from there that is inside the industry. There is no right or sense about what the government there is doing to them.
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