Would a New Boxing Game Need to Incorporate BKB and Get an 18 Rating?

There’s no doubt about it: boxing is well and truly back. Up and down the weight divisions, incredibly talented boxers and exciting pugilists are winning over fans all over the world. 

As is the case with most leading sports, there are video games to accompany the action. For the ever-evolving sport of boxing, however, the last major boxing title was Fight Night Champion from 2011. After that release, Electronic Arts ditched the series and moved onto UFC. 

Boxing has come a long way since 2011, as has the video game industry, with adults now acknowledged as a core demographic and developers creating bigger and better games. Indeed, 18-rated titles like Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, God of War, and The Outer Worlds have dominated in recent years, and now there are even louder cries for a new, full-fledged boxing game to hit the shelves. 

However, given how boxing and its many forms have evolved, the game might just need to be released in that bracket of an 18+ age rating. 

Bare-knuckle boxing could be in the next boxing game

While stars like Anthony Joshua, Katie Taylor, Tyson Fury, ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Artur Beterbiev, Vasyl Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue, and Cecilia Braekhus – to name a few – are winning over the traditional boxing audience, another form of boxing is growing in popularity. 

It has been around for over three centuries, as detailed by Forbes, but now that it’s coming into the mainstream across the United States – in a similar fashion to mixed martial arts’ rise to prominence – organised and professional bare-knuckle boxing is becoming a widely-watched and legitimised sport. It’s also very popular in the UK, where gloved boxing has anchored its huge comeback.

Not only are there organised competitions focused on BKB but fight nights are publicised, and some are broadcast through online sports platforms. In fact, bare-knuckle boxing has become so legitimised, popular, and synonymous with gloved boxing that NetBet features odds on its biggest fights alongside its traditional boxing odds. 

So, you can find Tyson Fury, who unveiled that he’s been around bare-knuckle boxing as a traveller, to beat Deontay Wilder at 4/5 just above the bare-knuckle boxing odds. Given the growing popularity of bare-knuckle boxing, it would seem as though game developers and publishers would be missing a trick if they weren’t to include such a mode in a big release. 

 Bare-knuckle boxing would mean an 18 rating

However, to include a bare-knuckle boxing mode within a sports game would almost certainly warrant an 18 rating. Even though the gaming industry – particularly in sports games – is getting away with some arguably shady practices (namely loot boxes), the rating board has a firm stance on age ratings when it comes to violence. 

Bare-knuckle boxing is bloody; it is dangerous; bones do get broken. In the modern era of realism-first in sports video games, developers would, naturally, need to include such features in a bare-knuckle mode. PEGI says that if “the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes a depiction of gross violence”, the game will be rated 18. Fight Night Champion was given a 16 rating in 2011, so there’s little doubt that a realistic depiction of bare-knuckle boxing would make a new title an 18. 

That said, developers might seek to make a standalone bare-knuckle boxing game instead of incorporating it into a traditional boxing game. As it’s popular in its own right, it would also be easier for a studio to create a licensed product that features real bare-knuckle boxers. 

The modern boxing scene is so divided and convoluted in image rights that attempts to make a boxing game, such as Round 4 Round, have found building a real boxer roster very cumbersome. If bare-knuckle boxing follows the process of the UFC and brings everyone under one banner, it’d be much easier to license a video game. 

Given the popularity of bare-knuckle boxing, it seems obvious that game studios would want to include it in a potential boxing game to expand the audience. However, such a game mode would almost certainly see the title slapped with an 18 rating from PEGI. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, seeing the immense popularity of video games with the older crowd.

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