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Friday the 13th turned out to be Blizzard Entertainment’s lucky day. After a series of lengthy delays, the South Korean Game Rating Board has finally issued a classification for Diablo III. The game has received an “M-18″ rating, which means that its sale is restricted to those over the age of 18.
Normally, the board issues a rating within 15 days of a game’s submission. But in the case of Diablo III, board members were concerned about the proposed Real Money Auction House (RMAH). The RMAH would allow players to sell their in-game loot for cold, hard cash. This provision seemed to run afoul of South Korea’s strict restrictions on gambling.
Even before Diablo III was submitted, the Game Rating Board had issued a report arguing that selling randomly-dropped items for money was too similar to gambling, and so games incorporating that feature should be denied classification under Article 1 of the Gaming Industry Promotion Law. Since games must have a classification in order to be sold in South Korea, refusing to classify a game is essentially the same as banning it.
Despite intense media speculation that Diablo III would be denied a rating because of the RMAH, Blizzard went ahead and submitted the full game, including the RMAH feature. In a press conference held during Blizzcon 2011, Blizzard’s Chief Operating Officer, Paul Sams, denied that there would be a problem.
“Legally, we decided that there’s no issue. Therefore we plan to apply for rating including the full auction house. Of course this may change in the future, but we always want gamers around the world to play the same version of our games,” he said.
However, Blizzard’s optimism proved to be misplaced, and the Game Rating Board repeatedly delayed a final decision on Diablo III. Blizzard tried to placate the board by resubmitting the game with the ‘cashing out’ feature removed. This would have prevented players from converting the proceeds of their sales into real-world money, but the board was still uncomfortable with the game.
It wasn’t until Blizzard removed the RMAH entirely that the board finally handed down an M rating. It is possible that Blizzard may try to implement the RMAH at a later date since a different government agency would then be responsible for the decision.
There is still no official release date for Diablo III, leading some fans to wonder if the problems in South Korea weren’t delaying the game’s worldwide release. Blizzard officials have tried to nix those rumors, but their vague denials haven’t done much to dampen the speculation.
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