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Old 01-30-2012, 01:35 PM   #1
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Default Games on Windows Phone adopting ESRB ratings

American readers should already be familiar with what the ESRB is, but for the sake of those who don't know I'll elaborate. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, is the dominant ratings board for video games in America, like PEGI or CERO in Europe and Japan respectively. The most common ratings under the ESRB are Everyone, Teen, and Mature intended for children, teens, and adults. Games in America are not required to use this system, but it's a well known and generally trusted classification and lends legitimacy to games among parents. The ESRB has been trying to get mobile games into their system, long left to self-regulation, and now the Marketplace supports the ESRB rating system.

It doesn't seem that Microsoft will be forcing developers to use the ESRB rating system, which is in keeping with the general "optional but recommended" nature of the ratings in America. Due to the sheer number of smaller games generated under a mobile platform the ESRB will not personally rate each game themselves, but trust in the developers to present their game honestly and fairly in order to receive a rating. This isn't hugely different from regular console and PC games, as infamous scandals such as the Hot Coffee debacle in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where content not normally accessible but still on disk was not submitted to the ESRB by Rockstar and was discovered and unlocked by some enterprising individuals that forced the ESRB to bump the game up to Adults Only, a rare rating that most stores refuse to sell as it's closely associated with pornographic content. The honor system pervades the ESRB ratings and it depends on such, whether or not the game is personally reviewed by them or not, it just so happens that mobile games rely on it more. As with any ESRB rated game, a complaint can be filed if the rating is felt to be inappropriate and the ESRB will give the game a thorough look. Similarly, developer can challenge a rating if they believe they've been unfairly rated. It's not a perfect system, but in general it works.

So what does this mean for Windows Phone? Well, it provides an at-a-glance look at the content of the game and should make it easier for parents to decide what games are appropriate for their children. It has been frequently stated that WP7 has "the mom factor," something that's capable, but still understandable even to people who typically aren't comfortable with technology. Using ESRB ratings plays into this, making it feel familiar to people. The number of games using the system is small now, but as more developers start submitting for their ratings we should expect to see the ratings take a prominent place in the Marketplace.

[GigaOm via WPCentral]

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