Video gaming in Australia
The video game industry in Australia is worth $1.45 billion annually as of 2012. There are 9.5 million active gamers in Australia and they spend an average of 11 hours a week playing games. Australians spend most of their time gaming on mobile devices, followed by PC games.
Beam Software (also known as Melbourne House) was one of the first Australia based gaming companies to achieve global success, with a text adventure adaption of The Hobbit. Ozisoft, a major distributor of games, was established in 1982.
Team Bondi, a Sydney-based independent third-party game developer founded in 2003, was responsible for the Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 title L.A. Noire, published by multinational video game developer and publisher Rockstar Games (also popular for the Grand Theft Auto series). L.A. Noire was both a critical and commercial success, with over 5 million sales (making it the biggest Australian-made game yet). Despite this, Team Bondi was wound up on 5 October 2011.
For many years (approximately 1993 to 2012), video games in Australia could not be rated R18+ (after a conference reported on in a 1993 issue of Hyper), and ratings only went up to MA15+ maximum. At the time, the R18+ classification rating could be given to film but a video game whose content would be deemed fitting for the R18+ rating would be 'Refused Classification' due to the R18+ classification not being available for the medium to use.
In July and August 2012 this was changed when all Attorney-Generals agreed on creating the R18+ rating for video games, making it available by the end of 2012. This meant many games previously refused classification could get an R18+ classification if the publisher chose to pay a re-classification fee, get the game re-rated and sell the game within Australia.
Despite this, games can still be refused classification if they depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.
Material which is refused classification is put on the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service list of prohibited items. Any copies of these games found at the border will be seized, and its recipient, depending on the amount of copies being imported may receive up to AUD$110,000 in fines.
An individual is allowed to own, use, access or create Refused Classification items, including games (with the exception of Western Australia). But a Refused Classification rating means that the created item is illegal to sell within Australia.
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