The digitally downloadable games landscape in South Africa is a bleak one, mostly a result of incompetence or bureaucracy within the government-run ratings body, the Film and Publications Board. the problem seems to be that either the FPB is slow, or that publishers are unwilling jump through the necessary hoops to get games rated locally. Our ratings system, essentially, is broken.
That could change.
According to our sources, the FPB will soon be trialling a new system whereby content providers will be able to rate and submit content themselves, allowing the local gaming industry to self regulate itself.
Our source says the system will allow publishers to attach a rating to digital content and release it without having to use the FPB to do the rating themselves. We’ve been told that publishers who’re found to be rating their content poorly will be subject to a rather hefty fine. In theory, this would allow our local marketplaces – like Apple’s iTunes store, PSN and Xbox Live Marketplace – to just use the existing European PEGI ratings (tweaked for local sensibilities) to expedite content delivery.
Of course, that’s the theory. In practice it seems to already be floundering. The new system was apparently supposed to have gone live over a month ago, but has failed to launch; apparently because the FPB’s pay gate system isn’t working. Yes, even though the FPB won’t actually be doing any of the rating themselves, they’ll still be operating on a retainer system, requiring a rather sizeable amount of money upfront before they even let anyone use the system…which should come as no surprise to anybody at all.
Our source says that all requests to find out what exactly is happening with the new system are actively being ignored – so don’t hold your breathe for more populated marketplaces. Honestly, I think Apple and Microsoft should just have the local digital stores as mirrors of their European counterparts, priced in Rands so we can all just bypass the FPB completely.