esrb posts

Federal Trade Commission finds high enforcement of ESRB ratings in retail stores

Retailers in the US continue to be strong at enforcing the ESRB ratings when approached by children without a parent, according to the newest "secret shopper" survey by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC sent a number of children, aged 13 to 16, to stores to see if they could purchase games not suited for the game's rating. The results show that only 13 percent of those underaged teenagers were sold M-rated games by retailers, down from an already pretty low 20 percent from the last FTC survey.

By contrast, a whopping 64 percent of underaged teenagers were able to purchase music with its Parental Advisory label in the secret shopper survey. 38 percent of underaged teens were able to purchase R-rated DVDs while 47 percent of them were able to purchase unrated DVD movies. Finally 33 percent of kids were able to buy a ticket to an R-rated film in movie theaters.

ESRB ratings system launches new way to submit downloadable-only games for ratings [Update]

With more and more downloadable only games being released for PCs and consoles, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has decided to offer developers and publishers a new way to have downloadable games rated by the board that's different from how retail games are handled.

In a press release today, the ESRB announced that downloadable game makers can now fill out a form that "contains a series of multiple choice questions designed to assess content across all relevant categories, such as violence, sexual content and language, among others." Based on the responses the ESRB will assign a rating to the downloadable game "as soon as a DVD reflecting all disclosed content is received by ESRB."

After the game is released, the ESRB will check to see if the final version's content is consistent with what the developer or publisher disclosed in its form. It stated that a game's rating could be changed if full disclosure was not given by the publisher. It added, "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."

This new system will not affect games that are sold via retail stores. The ESRB said such games will still "... 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." It's important to note that members of the ESRB never actually play a game they are asked to rate before the game is released to stores, whether it is released via retail stores on via download.

Update: A rep from ESRB has told Big Download that at the moment this new downloadable games policy only affects console downloadable games.

Dead Island's box logo to be changed thanks to the ESRB

dead island

Take a good look at the logo above this post for Dead Island. The upcoming zombie action game from developer Techland and publisher Deep Silver uses a dead body hanging by a rope to the tropical tree to form the "I" in "Island." That image is apparently too graphic for the ESRB ratings system here in the US.

According to IGN, the logo for the US box cover for Dead Island will be changed so that the body is standing upright on the ground, without a rope connecting it to the tree, when the game is released. The original logo will stay in the game itself and will also remain unchanged for the European box cover. There's no word as to why the ESRB asked for the change.

ESRB: Only 5 percent of games in US in 2010 were "M" rated

The US video-PC ratings system, run by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, has posted up the percentages of games for each ESRB rating for 2010. As is the case with every year, the "M" rating was only put on 5 percent of all 1,638 US games in 2010 rated by the ESRB.

By far the biggest game rating percentage went to the "E" (for Everyone) rating with 55 percent of US games given that stamp by the ESRB. 18 percent of games got the "E 10+" (Everyone 10 and up) rating while 21 percent of games got the "T" (for Teen) rating. Only 1 percent of games in 2010 got the "EC" (Early Childhood) rating.

While games with "M" ratings make up only a small percentage of total games published in the US it must be said that many "M" rated games sell extremely well such as last year's best selling game Call of Duty Black Ops.

Dead Space 2's "Moms" TV ads attacked by parent group

Dead Space 2 is apparently selling well for publisher Electronic Arts and part of the reason might be those fairly unique "Your Mom Hates Dead Space 2" TV ads that started running a couple of weeks before the game was released. Now the Los Angeles Times reports the parents group Common Sense Media organization has attacked both EA for running the ads as well as the ESRB ratings group for approving the ads.

Common Sense, who has their own ratings system in place for games and other entertainment media, claims the ads violate the ESRB's own ad standards, claiming that the commercials will make the game more desirable for children (Dead Space 2, in case you didn't know, was rated "M" for Mature by the ESRB). In a response, ESRB president Patricia Vance defended its approval of the TV ad campaign stating, "... just because a product desires to be seen as 'cool' or 'edgy' does not in and of itself necessitate that it is directed at children."


Bulletstorm ESRB description includes mention of "Intoxicated Skillshot"

Bulletstorm is a game we can't wait to play for ourselves (it's due out on February 22) and after reading the official content description at the ESRB game ratings web site it sounds like its going to be more fun than we thought. The game, as some of you may already know, has a Skillshot feature that gives points for more cool ways to kill your enemies in the game. Well, the ESRB description reveals that one of the Skillshots you can achieve involves drinking ... alcohol that is.

The exact quote is, "During the course of the game, players can consume alcohol and kill enemies in order to receive an Intoxicated Skillshot; the screen turns blurry during these sequences." Sounds like someone at developers People Can Fly and/or Epic Games likes the Jackie Chan Drunken Master movies. Oh, and just in case you were not sure, Bulletstorm is indeed rated "M".

ESRB launches iPhone and Android app updates for instant rating summaries

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board does an excellent job in terms of having its ratings on the boxes of nearly all retail PC and console games. But perhaps parents want more info on what content is in a particular game beyond the rating and brief descriptions. This week the ESRB announced updates the organization's applications for the iPhone and Android-based phones that will give parents that info.

Phones with the ESRB app can now use the phone's camera to take a picture of a game box. The app will then display a detailed ratings summary of that game's content which for space reasons cannot be displayed on the box itself. The rating summaries are available for all games that have been released since July 1, 2008.

Rumor: Venetica coming to the US?

Over a year ago, developer Deck13 and publisher dtp Entertainment relesed Venetica in Europe. The action-RPG game looks like it will be making its US debut soon-ish. A listing on the ESRB web site shows the game as coming to our part of the world for the PC and other platforms via publisher Evolved Games.

What is Venetica about? Set in the 16th century, the game has you controlling the character of Scarlett, a woman who finds out she is the daughter of Death (yes, Death is a physical being in this game world). She has to stop the evil plans of Victor, a man who was formerly Death and who is now trying to take over the world via dark magic arts and creatures.

California's game law creator sticks to his guns

With the US Supreme Court scheduled to hear the oral arguments for and against California's controversial retail game law next week the man who sponsored the law is sticking to his believes in a new interview with Gamespot this week.

Yee spends much of the time slamming the ESRB, the US game ratings board, calling the board "biased." He states, "The ESRB is funded by the industry, so it's like the fox guarding the henhouse." When it's pointed out the the US movie industry also rates its movies, Yee states, "It's a different technology. You go to a movie and you just sit there for two hours and see everything. Within video games, content is so embedded that you are unable to look at all the content in one sitting."

Yee's law, if it is allowed to be enforced, would restrict the sales of certain games with violent content to minors. Yee claims that such a law doesn't violate the First Amendment rights of free speech. He states, "Interestingly, kids can have access to these ultraviolent video games even under my bill. All you have to do is go to your parents, talk to your parents, and if your parents want to get it for you, they can go to the store and get it for you."

More Mayhem info revealed

Last week we reported that the ESRB web site had posted up a new entry for a demolition derby-like racing game called Mayhem. Now Australian's ratings board has revealed that the game from publisher Evolved Games is being developed by Left Field Productions.

The California-based game developer has had some experience with driving games in the past, including its most recent release, the off-road themed SCORE International Baja 1000. That's pretty much all we know about this game but since ratings board for two countries have approved it the game is also likely to be released sooner rather than later.

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