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ESRB to introduce automatic digital games ratings system

To cope with increasing numbers of digital releases, the ESRB is introducing a new assessment system requiring more expansive disclosure from developers.

Gamasutra reports the new system will go into effect this week, for all games released in the US via DSiWare, the PlayStation Network, WiiWare and Xbox Live.

Creators will be required to answer a detailed questionnaire on the game's content, to outline sex, violence, drugs and other controversial material. Penalties for non-disclosure will apply.

Games will be assigned an automatic rating based on the developer's answers, although ESRB staff will test the game post-release to verify results.

ESRB Patricia Vance said the organisation's previous system was put in place in 1994, and can't cope with the demand from thousands of small developers publishing digitally.

"This new rating process considers the very same elements weighed by our raters. The biggest difference is in our ability to scale this system as necessary while keeping our services affordable and accessible," she said.

The not-for-profit ESRB rates over 1,000 games each year, and is the premiere games ratings body for North America.

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