And the decline of the ESRB continues, it seems that anybody could do better than these guys. Today the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced a new streamlined rating process for games that will only be sold and downloaded through console and handheld storefronts such as Microsoft Xbox LIVE Arcade, Nintendo Wii or DSi Shop and Sony PlayStation Store. These games will receive the same recognizable ESRB ratings via a process whose efficiency and ease of use provides the scalability necessary to address the steady increase of games delivered digitally across an ever-expanding multitude of new devices and outlets.
Starting today, publishers of these downloadable games will complete a different submission form than is used for all other games. The new form contains a series of multiple choice questions designed to assess content across all relevant categories, such as violence, sexual content and language, among others. The questions also address important contextual factors such as the game’s realism and visual style, its incentives (i.e., whether a certain action is meant to be avoided or results in failure), the player’s perspective (i.e., omniscient, distant or third person vs. immersed, close-up or first person), and more. The responses provided determine the game’s rating, which is issued to the publisher as soon as a DVD reflecting all disclosed content is received by ESRB. All other types of games will continue to undergo the traditional rating process, which involves completion of a more open-ended questionnaire and review of a content DVD by a minimum of three raters who reach consensus on the appropriate rating.
All games rated via this new process will be tested by ESRB staff shortly after they are made publicly available to verify that disclosure was complete and accurate. In the event that content was not fully disclosed during this process, the rating displayed in the console or handheld store will be promptly corrected. In egregious cases of nondisclosure – which include a deliberate effort to misinform the ESRB the game and all of its promotional materials will be removed from the store through which it is being sold, pending its resubmission to ESRB.
So they are going to let computers basically make the ratings on download-only videogames from now on. I understand that they can’t keep up with the onslaught of games coming to market but I don’t know about this. Ultimately, I think that as more games go the DL only route this may result in the ESRB losing credibility. I mean honestly, the penalties are a joke and if someone did drastically mislead them by the time a correction was made who knows how many copies may have been sold. Also, there has to be some kind of appeals process for the developer to disagree with the ESRB findings that they didn’t properly disclose all the info and that would make the process even longer. I know they need to streamline this process, but not quite sure this is the way.