Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The woes of the Australian Gamer

Found this picture on gamesradar.com
on the article that inspired this,
seemed appropriate.
You've heard some stories about how bad Australia gets it when it comes to video games. A lot of Americans still bitch about prices of games and Europe whinges about localization. Well I'm here to feed the world a hunk of humble pie!

First of all, let's talk about prices. I'll start by talking about console prices. The USA flipped it's lid when they found out about the PS3 launch price was US$599.99, well here in Australia we had to pay AU$999.95! Yes this is accurate! Now I can already hear you say "WTF?!" at that but let me clarify... the average income in Australia is roughly AU$750 per week give or take. Doesn't sound bad? Well let me go deeper. The average food budget for families is $200-$250 and $450 for bills per week. If you're keeping up that's $650-700 lost before you can even buy any luxury items like video games and keep in mind over 50% of houses are dual income down here so there's more to the equation. Now if we take travel expenses, school fees for kids, fuel for the family car/s, credit debts of various types(mortgage, credit cards, bank loans, etc.)...most families would be lucky to have $150 for non essential/luxury items and this is suppose to satisfy a family of 4 with varying taste and desires? As you can see just there it's not much, but arguments do mount here a lot.

Now as for the price of the games themselves. I'm sure some of you have seen the prices before but I'll go over them again. The US pays US$50-60, The UK pays £70-80 and Australia pays AU$100-120 for the latest AAA title on the PS3 and Xbox 360 at the moment... and even more for limited editions! Then there's the digital market where M$ Points cost AU$8.25 for 500 points and Resident Evil 4 HD costs AU$29.95 on the PlayStation Store. Hell Xbox live and PS+ cost AU$79.95 a year! Pretty much if the US pays US$15 for a digital game, we pay AU$20. Now you know the stakes here with the cost of living but prices are just a part of what's bring Australian gamers down.

Now on to censorship. Our rating system is not just restricting... it's broken and confusing! We have two ratings for teens technically for one! In Australia the ratings for games are G, PG, M15+ rating... and a MA15+ rating... WTF?! What's the difference? Well... even I have trouble understanding it myself, but I'll try my best. M15+ is in some ways like the ESRB T adolescent rating in the US or the PEGI 12 of Europe in terms of what it's suppose to cover, case in point Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword got a M15+ here and different overseas and in my opinion it should be our PG rating. Then there's the MA15+ rating... this is an annoying rating since it covers 90% of the adult content except the excessive amount of content, drug use and blatant sex scenes that border on pornography... I think. Pretty much the MA15+ rating is a limbo stick for adult games to be available to 15 year olds! It's ridiculous!

Now as for the R18+ rating coming soon for games(finally!)... I actually don't know much about it, but it may take some of the height away from the MA15+ limbo stick and/or just cover what the current MA15+ doesn't cover... no one knows at this stage. When a movie gets a R18+ rating it's usually for the excessive amount of stuff, drug use and sex scenes. Not many movies or TV shows get a R18+ rating in Australia, but video games in Australia as of 2013 may be a different story. I personally hope the MA15+ limbo stick gets lower enough to force games like Call Of Duty that have realistic depictions of violence or gratuitously violent games like Gears Of War are given a R18+ they should have! As for the banned games issue, only a few titles a year get banned. Most games that are refused classification after a couple of months of being refused will just get edited, resubmitted and get released. The currently banned games will get a chance after two years of being refused classification to be resubmitted once the R18+ is implemented. Banning games was never an issue, a 13 year old playing Gears of War and/or God Of War is!

Now onto my personal hate as an Australian gamer... localization and region locking!!! Let me tell you something... when you have to import a whole genre of games, it's pretty screwed up! I like Japanese RPGs and a lot of Japanese made games in general(I am a golden age gamer after all!) and in Australia we actually get less of them then Europe and we are both in the PAL region! We missed out on so much just being in the PAL region but to get less then our monarch country and Europe? That's wrong!

See even though localization is a problem even in America, here it's a whole other kettle of fish. See we have to wait for the USA to localize games, then Europe chooses what they want that the USA localized and then converts the game to PAL 50Hz and does multi-lingual dubbing and text, the our very few publishers here choose what they want to risk releasing out of what was converted to PAL format. Japanese games are published in Australia mainly by Ubisoft, Namco Bandai and Atari and on the extremely rare occasion the console companies here if it isn't a first party title. This in turn also fueled the PS One and PS2 piracy ring and piracy in general in Australia, which the PS3 has managed to avoid. Hell I got my PS One and PS2's region codes unlocked just so I can buy import games. Yes game companies, people will unlock the region in there console just to buy imports, so don't lock them! Again, the PS3 managed to avoid a lot of piracy in Australia with it being region free for games and the import download section of the PS Store. Obviously Sony aren't complete morons.

Another big issue, especially with modern gaming is the online connection here. See here in Australia, we don't have very fast internet. At the time of writing this I only average 4MB/s download and 1.5MB/s upload on an ADSL+2 connection. My average ping in 260-300 to a US website on a good day. In Australia we have ADSL, 3G, Cable and Satellite internet and only now Slowly starting to get fibre optic installed in some areas with an average of a 3 year wait in central hubs of cities. I'm not kidding! Where I live, I won't see it for about 5 or more years and I'm not even in a rural area! Once the National Broadband Network(NBN for short) rolls out we will have up to 100MB/s internet speeds but it's taking way to long to be available and it isn't going to be cheap either! Hell, we only just started getting a free internet offer of 50GB a month... with a mobile or home phone contract and only through one company... who are crap at their job!

So yeah, next time you want to bitch about your gaming situation and you live outside of Australia, you should give a thought to us down under and remember that we get screwed the most and complain the least! Sure I bitch a lot but my life revolves around gaming because of various reasons. Regardless, I hope you learned something and will spread the word amongst the greater gaming community.

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