Balatro dev "disappointed" actual gambling games "aren't rated the same way" after ratings boards grilled the roguelike for gambling mechanics that don't exist

(Image credit: Playstack)

The solo dev behind the indie poker roguelike Balatro is disappointed over how games with "actual gambling mechanics" are given age ratings, after seeing their own game's rating skyrocket due to gambling-related concerns. This came despite the fact that Balatro doesn't actually feature gambling, and the developer is strictly against it. 

Developer Localthunk elaborated on the age rating saga during a recent Reddit "ask me anything" session, saying they still firmly believe the decision to raise Balatro's age rating in certain regions is "unwarranted."

"I still believe that the rating is unwarranted, but there is some gray area for interpretation from PEGI and at this point it is what it is," Localthunk wrote. "I think the one thing I am most disappointed by is the fact that other games with actual gambling mechanics aren't rated the same way because of their appearance/theme."

In case you missed it, the roguelike hit was temporarily pulled from a number of digital stores in certain countries earlier this month due to the sudden change in its age rating, which was prompted by concerns that it "contains prominent gambling imagery and material that instructs gambling." In the countries affected, this wasn't just a small alteration in the rating, either, as in the UK, it jumped from a PEGI 3 all the way to PEGI 18. 

At the time, Balatro publisher Playstack released a statement saying: "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."

This was corroborated by Localthunk, who wrote: "I do not condone gambling (staking something personally valuable on an uncertain event) nor do I believe that Balatro contains gambling. I did add risk/reward mechanics and RNG to Balatro, but these are core mechanics to the genre at large."

While being taken off stores temporarily was hardly ideal for an indie game which was peaking in popularity, thankfully, it's still been incredibly successful, and even reached 500,000 copies sold in just 10 days

Be sure to check out our roundup of upcoming indie games to see what other indie gems are around the corner. 

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.