Cast your minds back to the launch of Fallout 3
in Australia and the game was originally banned due to its depiction of drug use. The reason for that was that the R18+ rating for videogames wasn't a thing at the time. Today comes the surprising revelation that Bethesda's Starfield
has been given an R18+ rating due to the game's drug use.
The rating means that sales of the game will be restricted to people aged 18 or older in Australia - with "high impact" drug use looking to be the main reason. As far as violence goes Starfield has been given the "strong impact" rating which means that even if the rating is disputed it's looking like an Australian MA15+ rating for the game could be the alternative.
For a new IP to be given an R18+ rating, especially for a significant release like Starfield, is a major setback. It limits where the game can be advertised, and who it's marketed to, and no doubt even limits who can play the game via Xbox Game Pass. Starfield has yet to enter its marketing phase, which we assume would be massive considering it's the next game from the studio behind Fallout and Skyrim. At least in Australia, a restricted Starfield could mean fewer billboards.
That said, DOOM Eternal was given an R18+ rating for violence and marketing there was prevalent even in Australia.
Going back to Fallout 3, the Australian ban actually led to a positive outcome, where 'Morphine' was renamed to 'Med-X' which gave the drugs in the Fallout universe their own identity. Based on what we've seen from Starfield so far, there's nothing to indicate that the game will deliver an edgy R18+ style experience. The Australian Classification for Starfield also notes that there's no sex in the game, and nudity is basically non-existent.
There's enough time for the rating to change ahead of the game's September debut, and who knows, maybe a simple name change for drugs could be the solution here too.