Game Ratings for Age & Content by Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gets an app just in time for the holiday season. The new free app lets parents check the ratings of games to see if they are appropriate or not for their child. It also teaches parents how to restrict their child's console by ESRB rating and, with some consoles, even set the amount of time their child can play and who they communicate with online.
The ESRB has become the de facto standard for rating the content of video games. Well, at least packaged retail games. The ESRB is trying to expand out their rating system to cover downloadable games with the new Digital Rating Service. This provides ratings for downloadable games, including mobile apps, as they integrate their system with the CTIA Mobile Apps Review System. This service will allow app developers to fill out an automated questionnaire and instantaneously receive an ESRB rating for their app. This can all be done for free, opening up the ratings system to developers of all sizes.
However, the problem is that the ESRB ratings are currently not on the App Store, and there’s no real unified rating system out there yet for mobile games. The issue going forward with widespread acceptance will be if Apple decides to integrate these ratings into the store. Right now, the App Store uses Apple’s own ratings, with information that is supplied by the developer as to the content of the app and its age-appropriateness. Apple does implement the standardized MPAA ratings and TV ratings on the iTunes Store, so it seems like Apple may be open to an integrated ratings system in theory. However, given that apps are often from independent sources, rather than through studios that have the time and ability to prepare material for rating purposes, there may be hurdles toward Apple implementing ESRB ratings on the App Store. As well, the current ratings are set up for both games and apps, instead of the games focus of the ESRB.
So, the likely scenario is that only certain games will display the ratings, likely as splash screens, and only games from large publishers traditionally associated with the console space that place value on these ratings. If the App Store doesn’t implement them as a standard, then it loses some value, as obviously seeing the rating of an app after it has already been downloaded seems somewhat useless. Only a requirement from the ESRB to display logos in screenshots for games that choose to tuse the ratings may be
However, several of the new labels could come in handy, for those that indicate if an app uses location, features interaction with other people, or shares user information. While the self-reporting nature of the ratings system will not prevent unauthorized apps from sneaking these features past users, though it may educate users more.
So while there’s potential for ESRB ratings to become a real part of the App Store, there are still many, many hurdles for it to become widespread.
One of the tougher duties of a good parent is keeping track of all the ratings info on the games your kids want to buy. Now the ESRB, the body which rates all console and PC video games in the US, is making the process a bit easier for iPhone users. The newly released ESRB app allows users to take a picture of a game box and instantly have all the info about said game pulled up onscreen.
The new app will compare images of game boxes to those stored in its database and instantly pull up both the game's letter rating as well as a "ratings summary" which will spell out exactly why Death Dealers 2: More Death than Ever was rated M for Mature (spoiler alert: there's a whole lot of killing). This puts all the information right at the consumers fingertips on-demand, so before you pull the trigger to buy a new game for friends or loved ones you'll know exactly what you're getting into.
While the app requires a camera in order to search by photo, iPod and iPad users aren't left out in the cold, as you also have the option to search by game title. You can also filter by platform, so if you only want to know about the Xbox 360 or PS3 version of a game it's nice and easy to set.
We're very happy to see this app out in the wild, as the knowledge it provides will be a great help to parents and relatives who want to make responsible decisions before they buy a video game. We're all about informing and empowering consumers, and now ignorance will no longer be an excuse for buying games inappropriate for younger players. This is good for the industry, good for consumers and just all around a great thing for all parties involved.