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ESRB offers an easier way to get a rating for your digital games

October 24, 2012 | By Kris Graft

The Entertainment Software Rating Board has another solution to keep up with the flood of games released every day on digital platforms.

In its continuing efforts to standardize its age and content rating tool across all kinds of video games, the ESRB announced today it would begin to extend its free voluntary rating service across all digital platforms.

The move makes it faster and easier for game developers on digital platforms to obtain ESRB ratings for their games, meaning consumers, especially parents, have more exposure to a more familiar ratings system.

"It's very important for consumers to have access to ESRB ratings for games, regardless of the platform they're using," said ESRB president Pat Vance in a phone interview. "[And] we want to provide ratings to all developers who want them."

Vance said a study done for the ESRB by Hart Research showed that 85 percent of parents are familiar with the ratings.

Here's how the new Digital Rating Services program works: Developers access a submission form via a link provided to them either after submitting their game to a digital storefront, or by registering for free with the ESRB. Then, developers fill out an online questionnaire regarding their game's content and "interactive elements" (e.g. location and sharing services), as well as exposure to user-generated content.

Following an automated calculation based on the answers on the questionnaire, a rating is immediately issued and usable by the developer to display on storefronts and marketing materials. The ESRB conducts a post-release review of submitted games.

The new streamlined digital service will first be put into place for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation-certified devices, Nintendo eShop, Wii Shop and Windows 8. Support for additional platforms, including social and streaming, are on the way, Vance said.

With retail games, publishers submit videos and documents that would be reviewed by experts at the ESRB who would assign a content rating prior to release, but that process simply can't keep up with the digital world.

So about a year ago, ESRB sought to address efficiency issues by introducing a voluntary mobile app rating system. Today's announcement is an extension of that to all digital platforms.

"What we're trying to do is create a standard across devices that, frankly, I think developers should buy into," said Vance, "because when they market those products, they can use the ESRB rating to broadly market the age appropriateness and notifications to consumers, and consumers will get it.

"It's free for developers, which I think is important for it in order to gain broader adoption. It's quick, it's easy, it's free, so we're hopeful that developers will use it."

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