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Rogue-like poker hit Balatro pulled from sale in some countries due to unexpected ratings change

Balatro, the poker-themed rogue-like from solo developer LocalThunk that’s been a huge critical and commercial hit since releasing last week, has been unexpectedly yanked from sale in some countries, with publisher Playstack blaming the issue on a surprise ratings change.

Playstack addressed the issue in a lengthy statement shared on social media, explaining Balatro’s temporary removal from console stores had so far only happened “some countries”. It admitted it could not “estimate with complete confidence which stores” had been impacted, adding, “Our hope is that only a minority of stores will be affected”. It says it remains “highly confident” Balatro will remain available on PC, including Steam.

The cause of all this frustration is an unexpected “overnight change” to Balatro’s age rating, which has been bumped from 3+ to 18+. According to Playstack, this change stems from an unspecified ratings board’s “mistaken belief that the game ‘contains prominent gambling imagery and materials that instructs about gambling'”.

Balatro – Launch Trailer | THE POKER ROGUELIKE


Balatro launch trailer.

While Playstack doesn’t call out the ratings board by name in its statement, the publisher is almost certainly referring to Europe’s PEGI. Balatro currently has an PEGI 18 rating on the Xbox and PlayStation digital stores – alongside a warning the game contains “prominent gambling imagery” – and it no longer appears at all on Nintendo’s UK eShop.

“Balatro does not allow or encourage gambling,” the publisher continues, “and we fundamentally believe the ratings decision is unfounded. Balatro was developed by someone who is staunchly anti-gambling, and painstaking care has been taken to ensure that the game does not feature gambling mechanics of any kind”.

Playstack adds it’s “especially disappointed” given that it has already “specifically address this topic” with the ratings board, which agreed to classify the game as 3+ following an appeal over its initial 18+ rating. When the appeal was successful, the ratings board is said to have told the publisher, “We have reviewed your product and determined that the disclosure of gambling themes was unwarranted”. Playstack stresses that no content has changed since then.

“We are deeply sorry that some fans will not be able to access [Balatro] this weekend”, the publisher continues, before assuring players the game will eventually “be back on sale, possibly with a temporary 18+ rating, while we resolve the issue. We thank you for your patience and support – we are utterly blown away by your passion and belief in Balatro.”

Eurogamer’s Christian Donlan had good things to say about Balatro’s rogue-like spin on poker in his four-star review, calling it, “So striking and so brilliantly constructed, and something that has given me such pleasure for the last week”.

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