The Australian Classification Board, the governmental committee that decides the content rating of video games, has refused to rank Devolver Digital’s Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. This decision effectively bans the title from being sold in Australia unless the developer censors the unacceptable explicit content.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number has fallen under the category of “Refused Classification”, indicating that the offensive content featured in the game falls outside of the existing adults-only rating in Australia. Should Devolver Digital remove the offensive content the Classification Board would reconsider the title at some point in the future. The Australian Classification Board offered only a generic statement as to what sort of content prevented ranking:
“The computer game is classified RC in accordance with the National Classification Code, Computer Games Table, 1. (a) as computer games that “depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified.”
Despite being a top-down, 2D action game the Hotline Miami franchise continues to be very controversial compared to other titles as many games that were once banned in Australia are now accepted into the market following the introduction of the R18+ rating two years ago. Devolver Digital’s issues with the Classification Board are hardly unique as the Australian government is notoriously conservative in censoring content and banning titles from the open market. Even after the introduction of the adults-only benchmark many developers are forced to censor particular content before being allowed to receive classification. Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, even as an unreleased sequel, has already gained a reputation as controversial from demoed footage that insinuated a sexual assault.
(Update:) Devolver Digital has issued a statement following the Australian Classification Board refusing to rank Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number. Devolver Digital has stated plainly that the offensive content in the demoed introduction is optional and will not be altered. The developer has also said very clearly that the judgment by the Classification Board will not be challenged. This is an unfortunate position for Australian gamers but Devolver Digital has preferred to be principled in keeping the game as it stands rather than censor it to pacify the Classification Board. The whole statement can be read on the official Devolver Digital website but the important parts are as follows:
First, to clear up any possible misconceptions, the opening cinematic that was first shown in June of 2013 has not changed in any way. We also want to make clear that players are given an choice at the start of the game as to whether they wish to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence. The sequence in question is presented below in context, both after choosing the uncut version of the game and after choosing to avoid content that alludes to sexual violence.
Second, in response to the report itself, we are concerned and disappointed that a board of professionals tasked with evaluating and judging games fairly and honestly would stretch the facts to such a degree and issue a report that describes specific thrusting actions that are not simply present in the sequence in question and incorrectly portrays what was presented to them for review.
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is expected to release in early 2015 on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and PC.