Videogame Ratings Board Takes Big Step Toward Mobile

The Entertainment Software Rating Board, working with its parent organization, the International Age Rating Coalition, will start offering ratings on Google Android-based games and other digital platforms.

If there’s one critical piece of advice for the videogame industry in 2015, it’s this: Ignore smartphones at your peril.

It’s a lesson that Nintendo learned the hard way, initially disregarding a huge segment of the market out of concern over quality. But in the face of declining fortunes, the company  changed course this week and announced a plan to collaborate on smartphone games with a vendor.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board appears to be taking a similar lesson to heart as it launches an effort to bring its age and content rating systems to mobile devices and other digital platforms everywhere. ESRB will be working directly with Google to offer  ratings on its Google Play platform.

The board, a voluntary group founded in 1994 in response to pressure from Congress, has recently increased its reach by launching the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a global body that includes various ratings groups worldwide.

With smartphones becoming as feature-packed and powerful as game systems like the Nintendo 3DS and the Sony PS Vita, it was perhaps only a matter of time before the ESRB took this step. While it had previously attempted to establish a ratings system with CTIA: The Wireless Association, it didn’t get buy-in from Apple and Google—though the major wireless companies did agree to take part.

Changing the Strategy

Simply put, the two smartphone giants have been concerned about loss of control. Apple, which isn’t taking part in the new program, is particularly known for using a stringent testing approach, which would be complicated by additional testing from a voluntary regulatory body.

But as Polygon notes, the ratings boards are working on a new questionnaire-based process for setting up game ratings,which will eventually be translated to traditional videogame platforms. This strategy is meant to simplify the ratings process.

“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,” ESRB President and IARC Chairwoman Patricia Vance said in a news release [PDF]. “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.”


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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