As you will all be aware, the GTA IV in New Zealand is the edited Australian version. Despite being assured by EB Games staff even in the week leading up to release that the game would be “uncut”, the truth of the matter is that while the New Zealand censorship body (the Office of Flim and Literature Classification or OFLC) did not impose any “cuts” to be made to the game which was submitted, the submitted version had already been edited to pass the censorship body of Australia (where their highest classification is MA15+).
The full details of the situation can be found at Geekpulp’s “idiot’s guide” to New Zealand censorship laws. As explained in this guide, it would be possible for the “rest of the world” version of GTA IV to be sold in New Zealand, as long as this version was submitted to the OFLC. We can now tell you that this process has already begun. Read on after the break for the full details.
Reports on the internet surfaced last week that a Trademe seller had been selling “uncut” imported GTA IV games. However this seller apparently left many buyers in the lurch when he announced that there would be a delay in supplying the game due to a delay in obtaining classification from the OFLC. Remember that it is illegal to sell or distribute a classifiable video game (GTA IV falls into this category) unless it has been classified by the OFLC and carries a correct classification label from the NZ Film and Video Labelling Body. Penalties can include fines and/or imprisonment.
Some were obviously skeptical, wondering how it could be commercially viable for someone to pay in excess of $1000 to the OFLC to classify the game - a lot of GTAs would have to be sold in order to recoup those costs. Furthermore, any other retailer or seller could purely “piggy-back” on the classification and sell unedited copies themselves - in effect eliminating any commercial advantage this seller would have over others.
We can now confirm that GTA IV in its original “uncut” form has been submitted for classification to the OFLC. Our sources tell us that an Xbox 360 version will soon be forwarded for classification, and that because the PS3 version is essentially the same game and code, this would also be covered once a classification has been issued.
The bad news for gamers (and the seller) is that the process will take an estimated 6 to 8 weeks. This time can be reduced in a number of situations including the following:
1) An “urgent” classification is applied for - this carries an additional fee of 50% of the classification fee (for a video game this is $1400 plus $100 per hour or part thereof after 5 hours). However “the Chief Censor may waive all or part of the additional urgency fee if he is satisfied that the additional fee would be unreasonable, unfair or unduly burdensome for the applicant”.
2) Where the OFLC is provided with a list of differences between the version that is already classified (ie. the Australia edited version) and the version being submitted (ie. the “uncut” version). Of course the only people that would be able to provide this information are the same people that submitted the edited version to the OFLC in the first place.
As far as our sources are aware, there has been no urgent request made for classification of this game. Therefore, unless Take2 and R* decide to come forward to assist this application (we can but hope?), this is set to be a long and drawn out process.
We can also confirm that any other retailer in New Zealand would be able to essential “piggy-back” any classification that is issued, by paying only a nominal fee, so long as they can satisfy the FVLB that the version they are selling is identical to that which was submitted for classification.
The only potential side effect of this news is that if for some reason the OFLC find something in the game which they deem “objectionable”, then this could (potentially) see GTA IV being removed from our shelves altogether, to be replaced by a “new” edited version. We do not know exactly what was submitted to the OFLC prior to GTA IV’s release - there is a small chance that something in the actual game was never seen by the censors the first time around, that would require excising when they saw it this time around.
However this is extremely unlikely in all honesty - the game has already been classified by the UK censorship body and did not require cuts to be made. NZ censorship laws are not as “strict” as those in the UK, so it is likely that anything passed in the UK would also be allowed in New Zealand.
More updates as they come to hand.