As if last week's match-fixing drama wasn't enough, South Korea is in for some more StarCraft backlash, after their Games Rating Board stuck a big "Adults Only" sticker on Blizzard's upcoming RTS sequel.
One of the most eagerly-anticipated launches of the year, and definitely a highlight of the Korean calendar, StarCraft II is expected to follow in the footsteps of the original game, which singlehandedly spawned a whole new industry of commercial gaming lounges, known in Korea as "PC bangs". It also formed the basis for the e-sports movement which now involves multiple professional gaming leagues around the country.
Even though many fans of the original game are adults themselves now, it's understandable that the Games Rating Board's decision won't sit well with the new generation of gamers who are itching to get their hands on some real time strategy when the game's launched later this year.
From what we've learned, the Games Rating Board has recently gotten much stricter when rating games that contain violence, drug use and foul language, and while we're not sure exactly what was wrong, it seems that StarCraft II ticked too many boxes. The board's 18+ rating comes after test versions of the game received 15+ ratings last year.
Allegedly, developers Blizzard wanted something closer to the 12+ rating they had received in the US, so they resubmitted a later release candidate version of the game for a second review. It looks like their plan has backfired, with the company now able to file an objection against the R18+ rating within the next month.
At this stage, it is unknown as yet whether they will chat to the unit of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism about their decision to restrict the game. While it might get them a lower rating, it would also delay the release of the game in that market until some time in 2011.
A spokesperson for Blizzard Korea is keeping mum:
"We have nothing to say at this point. We are discussing our official position on the matter as well as what would be the right reaction."
The Games Rating Board has commented as well:
"Considering that the RC version of the game is closer to what will be sold on the shelves compared to the beta versions, we looked more carefully at the content.
"However, this rating is not final, as Blizzard will get the chance to object to it.
If this all sounds a little familiar, there's a good reason. It's the same dance that Blizzard performed back when the original game was released in Korea, as well as in America. The original ESRB judgement gave StarCraft the M for Mature sticker (restricting the game to 17+), but in later years revised this back down to T for Teen (13+). This could all just be the sound of history repeating.
Jimmy the Geek