The news that kiwi gamers were dreading has come through today: Take-Two Interactive has contacted retailers to notify them that New Zealand will be receiving the same edited version of Grand Theft Auto IV as Australia.
Australia lacks a rating for games higher than MA15+, so titles which would merely be rated R18 in New Zealand are either banned outright or have to be edited to pass censorship in Australia.
Rockstar has created an edited version of Grand Theft Auto IV specifically for the Australian market. It has not yet released details of what has been edited out. The game attained an Australian MA15+ rating in December, with the ocker Office of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) warning that it contains "strong violence, strong coarse language, drug and sexual references."
In New Zealand, the game received an R18 rating from the NZ OFLC in February, which only warned that it "contains violence and offensive language."
Only the version of the game which has been rated in New Zealand (which would be the Australian version) is legal to be sold in NZ. Imported copies of the unedited version cannot be sold because they have not been rated.
Past games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise have also had to be edited in Australia; GTA III, GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas all required modifying to receive their MA15+ ratings. In all those cases New Zealand received unedited versions, however.
Take-Two has not provided any explanation as to why New Zealand is receiving the Australian version this time around. New Zealand stocks for most games usually come from Australia, so the most likely explanation is that it came down to supply logistics.
Rockstar issued a press release on Friday calling on the Australian government to revise their classification system for games to include an R18 rating.