For years, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (or ESRB) has been providing rating services to a number of video game products, including digital releases and console games. But now, it appears that it’ll be taking its ratings to a whole new platform – mobile.
From a report in GamesIndustry International, the ESRB has announced that it has teamed up with the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) with a new global rating system, one that would classify ratings for titles on both consoles and mobile devices across the world. Several ratings boards have jumped on the program, including PEGI in Europe, Classind in Brazil, USK in Germany and the Classification Board in Australia, with more expected to join the program in the future.
With the help of the IARC, the ratings authorities “agree on a unified process that simultaneously generates ratings for multiple territories while preserving each of their distinct cultural standards.” The system is expected to begin with such digital stores as Firefox Marketplace and Google Play, as well as digital storefronts like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Nintendo’s eShop, where ESRB ratings are already pretty common.
Patricia Vance, president of ESRB and chairperson of IARC, said about the new initiative, “The market for digital games and mobile apps is exploding across the globe. With a single click, developers can publish their games and apps on digital storefronts reaching a worldwide audience. These realities have created regulatory and cultural challenges that call for an innovative solution like IARC to help developers and storefronts provide consumers with culturally relevant, legally compliant and reliable guidance about the age appropriateness of the content in games and apps they may be considering for download. It is encouraging that digital storefronts recognize the benefits of this groundbreaking initiative.”
Vance also added that the Google Play Store “is deploying the system as we speak,” although other companies, like Valve’s Steam service and Apple’s App Store, have yet to be on board. When it comes to those companies, Vance said, “Discussions with other storefronts about adopting IARC have been held, but you’ll have to ask them directly about their plans.”
Apple currently has a ratings system that’s based on numbers, or user ages, ranging from four plus to 17 plus, depending on the content involved with the title. Developers are usually responsible for issuing such ratings – and it appears to be a system that will continue to be used. Meanwhile, Steam has no adoption for such a rating system, although it does warn developers that games “must not contain offensive material or violate copyright or intellectual property rights.”
Several company heads have spoken in support of the new partnership. Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox and vice chairman of the ESRB board, said “Microsoft has been a longtime supporter of ESRB ratings. Our users are familiar with them and, more importantly, trust them. We will continue to support IARC’s creation of a global ratings solution that makes it seamless for developers and producers to get their digitally delivered content rated globally to benefit consumers in their purchasing decisions.”
Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo of America, added “Nintendo has always been a strong advocate of helping people make smart choices about the games they buy for themselves and for their children. More than 20 years ago, Nintendo was instrumental in supporting the creation of consumer-friendly rating systems, and now we’ve joined with other leaders in the video game industry to support the IARC initiative. As digital downloads continue to grow in popularity, it’s more important than ever for people to be educated about the content of the games they are buying.”
Strauss Zelnick, chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software and ESRB chairman of the board, chimed in “For more than 20 years, the ESRB has provided invaluable leadership to the interactive entertainment industry and played an integral role in protecting the creative freedom of today’s most innovative artists and storytellers. In addition, the ESRB has been lauded resoundingly as a highly effective resource for consumers, particularly parents, ensuring that gamers of any age can easily access trusted content rating information. Together with the other associations, the International Age Rating Coalition is poised to take a bold and important step forward with the Google Play Store and Mozilla Firefox Marketplace that will enhance further our industry’s standards of excellence and self-regulation.”
And finally, John Riccitiello, Unity CEO and former ESRB chairman of the board, said, “Having been an early supporter of IARC for years, I applaud Google and Mozilla for taking the initiative to deploy the IARC rating system. The IARC system presents a common-sense solution with a single standard, providing locally relevant age and content ratings that consumers recognize and trust. Obtaining IARC ratings is free to the app developer and incredibly easy to use.”
A unified global ratings system would be of use to marketers, providing a consistent way to label and categorize games. It would also make it easier to get the approrpiate labeling for each country, a process that can be complex and time-consuming.
A video showcasing what the IARC is about can be found below.