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One Of 2024’s Best Games Has Been Yanked From Switch Over Gambling Concerns

Breakout hit Balatro—a poker-themed roguelike deck builder—has run into some ratings trouble that’s led to the game being suddenly removed from the Nintendo eShop in many European countries. This removal has surprised both the developer and publisher, who now have to work to get the game back up on the shop for sale.

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Released last month on Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC, Balatro is a wonderful and hard-to-put-down deck builder. It uses poker mechanics and hands as the foundation for a strange, but fun roguelike all about earning massive combos using power-ups and special cards. Players earn chips as they win hands and progress, but these chips are only used as currency to buy upgrades and new cards. You don’t gamble with them at all. However, the card game theme as well as references to big and small blinds (a part of the betting process in poker) has seemingly led to an overnight rating change for Balatro and its removal from the Nintendo eShop in some regions.

On March 1, the publisher behind Balatro—Playstack—confirmed via Twitter the hit card game had been removed from “some countries” on some consoles. In an email to Kotaku, PlayStack clarified that it appears that the game has been removed from the Nintendo Switch eShop in most of Europe. Kotaku’s own investigation seems to confirm this, as the game isn’t available on Germany or the UK eShops, but is still up (for now, at least) in the US. Other console stores don’t seem affected, but the PEGI rating has changed for Balatro on the PSN and Xbox, from 3+ to 18+. And this is why the game has suddenly been removed from some stores, according to Playstack.

“This is not an issue with the stores themselves,” explained Balatro in its March 1 statement on Twitter. “However, a reaction to an overnight change to Balatro’s age rating from 3+ to 18+ by a ratings board without any advance warning, due to a mistaken belief that the game ‘contains prominent gambling imagery and material that instructs about gambling’.”

“Balatro does not allow or encourage gambling—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,” explained PlayStack.

The publisher further added that it was “disappointed” in the PEGI ratings board as it claims it had specifically talked to them about this topic in October, months before the game’s launch, and was told that the board had “reviewed [Balatro] and determined that the disclosure of gambling themes was unwarranted.” Playstack says that since the original rating was approved, nothing in the game has changed.

Playstack confirmed that anyone who purchased the game already will still be able to play it, even if it has been removed from your region’s eShop.

“Please rest assured we are working as hard as we can to get the game back on sale as soon as possible,” said PlayStack.

A similar situation happened in May 2023 when a card-based indie game joked about gambling and got its eShop release delayed.

In more positive news, Balatro is now out on Mac after the game’s most recent update. And hopefully soon, Switch users will be able to once again collect creepy jokers and score big combos in one of 2024’s best games.

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