Starting with Nexon’s Blue Archive and Netmarble’s Fate/Grand Order, the South Korean government has finally taken a step toward regulating the age limit of gacha RPGs. The games previously had an official game rating of 15 years, but according to a government regulation issued on October 13, the games will now have an age rating of 18 years.
Netmarble’s Fate Grand Order and Nexon’s Blue Archive were released in 2017 and 2021, respectively. These titles were previously rated for 15-year-old users, allowing them to be advertised and, more importantly, played by younger players. However, the games are no longer placed as suitable for children due to governmental regulations. This means that players must be at least 19 years old to participate.
The move follows the recent explosion of anime-themed gacha games on mobile, which has increased character sexualization on mobile. As it turns out, government agencies have been paying close attention to gacha character designs, and they are not pleased.
According to the Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC) website, the content and motif of games with representations of obscenity, violence, speculation, and so on that would be harmful to children under the age of 18 (direct and concrete graphical representation of sexuality, violence, improper language (expletives), reproduction of gambling spirit (existence of arousing of passion for excessive use of gaming money, or reliance on one’s luck, but no real gaining or loss of on).
In September, Blue Archive was issued a warning
The Blue Archive crew was called by the Korean Game Classification and Administration Committee in September 2022 and given a choice to either change the art or age rating. Then, Nexon announced on October 4, 2022, that Blue Archive, a gacha RPG, will have two editions.
Each of the versions will have a different age rating, with one version featuring censored artwork and the other featuring the artwork as it is now. They will specifically be the “R-18 version” and the “version with altered resources.” A higher age rating will apply to the R-18 version of the game.
Although updating the artwork would be the simplest solution, Blue Archive Producer Kim Yong-ha stated that the team considered changes it had already made to the worldwide (English) edition of Blue Archive in December 2021 when it modified artwork for the character Arisu’s story segments. It occurred despite earlier assurances from October 2021 that the team will not change artwork for the global version.
Kim was concerned that frequent modifications would have a detrimental effect on players in light of the fallout from the incident where Blue Archive was censored. As a result, it was decided to upgrade the game’s age classification and create a second, all-ages version of the app with balanced materials.
Rampant character sexualization in Gacha RPGs could have a similar impact on other games
Many fans of gacha games are delighted to see their characters dressed in various scanty outfits. While some games like Blue Archive characters are sexualized, other gachas have far more lewd designs.
With this in mind, these new ratings will not surprise that more titles will be affected. Compared to gachas such as Unhappy Raccoon or Girls Connect, the cast can be much more exposed.
These games are most likely being used as examples by the Korean board. With more sexualized characters becoming the norm, these games will serve as the standard against which others will be judged.