The Australian Office of Film & Literature Classification has ruled that Atari's console game Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure exceeds its previous MA15+ rating and should be refused classification.
The OFLC had originally set a February 8 deadline for the review decision but extended the deadline because the board members were equally divided in opinion.
Australia is the only country in the world to ban the game. It cannot be sold, demonstrated, hired or imported into the country.
"A computer game will be refused classification if it includes or contains detailed instruction or promotion of matters of crime," AOFLC convenor Maureen Shelley said. "It is the Classification Review Board's determination that this game promotes the crime of graffiti."
However, the board's focus on criminal activity has been blurred in the past with classification ratings being awarded to controversial games, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and film-to-game adaptation The Warriors. Both games feature violence, theft and graffiti, with the latter game being based on an R18+ movie.
"It's very unlikely for someone to go outside and shoot someone," Shelley said. "It was important to note that the target audience of this game is the same demographic that is likely to perform graffiti."
She added that Atari had indicated it would appeal the decision to the Federal Court of Australia.
Although the ruling does not set a concrete precedent for future board decisions, Shelley said that it would be something future classification or review boards would take into account as an indication of community standards.
Only three games have ever been recalled for a reclassification due to ministerial pressure. All three games were subsequently refused classification by the Review Board.
Atari refused to comment until the OFLC released it official report on the ruling but issued a press release that stated it "strongly disagrees with the Office of Film & Literature Classification Review Board's decision and defends the original classification by the OFLC as a title that attracts a rating of MA15+."
Atari will be briefing the games' industry body, the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia (IEAA), as it believes the decision will have far reaching consequences for the industry.
All reference to the game has been removed from the Atari Australia Web site.