A couple of days ago, news outlets reported DayZ's physical release had been refused classification in Australia - despite the game having been out in digital form for five years. The reason for this, according to the Australian Classification Board's listing, was that it was deemed to "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".
Obviously, that's a pretty broad spectrum.
Thanks to a report seen by Kotaku Australia earlier today, we now know exactly why the game has been blocked from release, and the situation is weirder than first thought. Namely, it's about cannabis - something that currently isn't active in DayZ - and the ACB is apparently working towards getting the game's digital version banned too.
According to the report, the game was banned for "illicit or prescribed drug use related to incentives or rewards".
"Through general gameplay, the player is able to collect and use a variety of equipment, supplies and weaponry," the ACB's report states. "One of the options to restore the player's health is a marijuana joint, labelled 'cannabis', which is denoted by a cannabis bud in the player's inventory."
Bizarrely, while noted by some Twitter users, while cannabis has been found in the files for an experimental version, the feature has not yet been implemented in the game. Perhaps the feature was planned for an upcoming patch and was therefore included in the physical version. In any case, the ACB takes issue with drug items as incentives and rewards, so DayZ's publishers will need to remove any benefits... if that was the function cannabis was supposed to have.
So, why is this all happening now? The problems began when DayZ's physical distributor Five Star Games applied for release, a process that was turned down by the ACB on 4th June. Digital releases in Australia are classified using a different method, the International Age Rating Coalition tool, which automatically assigns ratings based on developer responses to set questions. This meant DayZ was previously able to qualify for a digital release with a MA15+ rating via the IARC process. Talk about a dis-jointed system.
Earlier this week, publisher Bohemia Interactive said it had been informed the digital version would not be affected by the physical rating (via PC Gamer), however, it now seems the ACB's decision could eventually result in the removal of the game from Steam, and the PlayStation and Xbox One stores - unless something changes.
In the meantime, Bohemia Interactive has now responded to the situation via the DayZ Twitter account, vowing it will "do everything in [its] power to keep the game playable and available for Australian gamers".
?? The Australian player base is a big and very important part of our community. At the moment we are looking for the best solution to keep the game on the Australian market and pass the classification according to all regulations.— DayZ ? ? ?? (@DayZ) August 9, 2019
This isn't the first game to fall foul of Australia's conservative rules regarding the representation of drugs: State of Decay was similarly refused classification in 2013 for containing drugs with healing properties, and Fallout 3's morphine item had to be changed to be renamed Med-X before it could be distributed in Australia. Made-up drugs are fine, apparently, so you can hang onto your skooma.