March 12, 2024 3 min read


Playstack Games Defends Poker Roguelike Balatro After Store Bans

Balatro’s publisher, Playstack Games, defends its poker roguelike release from February 2024 as fans notice its removal from some stores

On February 20, Canadian solo dev LocalThunk took the world of gaming by storm with a roguelike deck-building game published by Playstack Games

Besides the excitement it triggered shortly after its release, Balatro is now in the news for a different reason. Some online stores have decided to ban it in the context of a surprising update to its European age rating

Among them, is the Nintendo Switch eShop store page in the UK, Australia, and other non-US markets. 

Over 500,000 Copies Sold

The game, which is referred to as poker roguelike, has already sold over 500,000 copies and has been deemed as a potential Game of the Year by many, mostly due to the smart use of the design language of poker.

As described on the game’s official page, Balatro is a “deck-building roguelike where you must play poker hands and earn chips to defeat enemy blinds.”

On its dedicated Steam page, the game is referred to as “a hypnotically satisfying deck builder where you play illegal poker hands, discover game-changing jokers, and trigger adrenaline-pumping, outrageous combos.”

The Store Ban, a Reaction to the Overnight Age Rating Change 

While some territories can still buy the game with zero issues, the publisher has officially confirmed it has been removed because of the abrupt age rating change, from 3+ to 18+.

The new age rating given to the Balatro is the result of what was described as “prominent gambling imagery” which “instructs about gambling.” 

Many voices argue that this is not only a big misunderstanding of the actual design and appeal of the game itself, but also of the genre it is built upon.

Publisher Playstack Games took to its X/Twitter social media page to defend the game and explain that the team is currently busy working hard to see it get back on sale “as soon as possible.” 

The publisher described it as not an issue with the actual stores but rather “a reaction” to the overnight change that was applied to the game’s age rating by a rating board without a previous warning. 

Playstack Games also explained the wrong age rating was given to Balatro because of a “mistaken belief that the game ‘contains prominent gambling imagery and material that instructs about gambling.”

The publisher added that it had already addressed all gambling concerns with the respective rating board back in October when they labeled Balatro as a 3+ rated game after it was originally handed an 18+ rating.

The decision was appealed by the publisher. During the appeal, the rating board assured Playstack that they had reviewed the product and “determined that the disclosure of gambling themes was unwarranted.”

To make things more clear, the company added that the content of the game has not been changed since the 3+ age rating was amended.

The team called the new rating “unfounded,” adding that LocalThunk is “staunchly anti-gambling.”

For the time being, Playstack remains confident that the game will continue to be available on PC storefronts like Steam, with no clear idea of how different platforms would be impacted. 

The problem of loot boxes in video games and their alleged link to gambling has also made many headlines in countries like Germany lately. The latter has asked for stricter rules.

The topic of skins gambling sites that enable players to crypto, stake cash, and other CS skins for a chance of winning expensive and rare skins is also a controversial one.

After finishing her master's in publishing and writing, Melanie began her career as an online editor for a large gaming blog and has now transitioned over towards the iGaming industry. She helps to ensure that our news pieces are written to the highest standard possible under the guidance of senior management.

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