Speaking of ratings, the new automated system for the Entertainment Software Ratings Board is now live, meaning that North American game ratings will be processed in a “more timely fashion”.
The ESRB has streamlined its system, to try and cope with the “rapid release” of games over digital platforms such as the App Store, Android Marketplace, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store and Nintendo’s WiiWare.
Originally, it was simply too expensive for developers to submit these downloadable titles, and the ESRB was buckling under the strain.
Now, though, the system puts the choices back into the hands of the developers, asking eight multiple-choice questions about the submitted game (most answers require giving additional information). These answers, as well as a copy of the game, are handed to the ratings board along with a fee, with the rating handed back as quickly as 24 hours later.
Speaking to Kotaku, ESRB spokesperson Patricia Vance explains why the new system will work so much better.
“If you look at what we constructed here it’s scalable to address whatever volume you want,” Vance says. “It’s low cost and it is very effective. I think there is no question that mobile devices are a very important part of the pie.”
Conventional retail games will still use the old system – a longer questionnaire and DVD submission, plus a considerably higher filing fee and roughly a week’s turnaround time. You can see how the new model is desirable!
In the new model, the ESRB doesn’t necessarily check out the gameplay in question, keeping it instead for record purposes and the occasional spot-check. Developers using both methods must sign an agreement which then holds them liable for any deception – a way of avoiding any potential “Hot Coffee” incidents.