In a partnership with the CTIA Wireless Trade Association, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is preparing to unveil a rating system for all mobile games on Tuesday November 29 in Washington D.C. The presentation will kick off on Capitol Hill and will be hosted by ESRB President Patricia Vance and CTIA president Steve Largent. In addition, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and U.S. Senator Mark Pryor will also be in attendance. Similar to the popular ratings system for console and PC gaming, the ratings will assign grades based on the content of the game and specify which age groups are suitable for each game.
Since 1994, the ESRB has rated over 21,000 games but have allowed developers and publishers of downloadable games on services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network to self-police ratings with a detailed questionnaire. The questionnaire was created by the ESRB and specifically calls out sexual or crude content as valid reasons to elevate the rating to more mature age groups. Regarding gaming applications released for the iOS platform, Apple developed a ratings system that splits apps into four categories. The 4+ level is suitable for all ages and the 9+ level may contain mild violence or mature themes that’s not suitable for any child under the age of nine. The 12+ level contains the previously mentioned content in addition to simulated gambling and the 17+ level could easily include intense violent and sexual content. Parents can lock down the level of apps available to be purchased by using the parental controls.
The Android platform uses a similar rating system that ranges from “Everyone” to “High Maturity” and the Windows platform attempts to direct children to a family section to purchase apps. Both the CTIA and the ESRB will need to convince Apple and Google to adopt the ratings system to include it within the application description. If both companies are resistant to the new ratings system, app developers may start including the games within the description during the publication process.