Today the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced that it would be expanding its rating services to mobile and digital storefronts. Currently, the ESRB rates games for dedicated consoles and computer gaming only. Many games slip through the cracks, including mobile games and indie games that only come out for PC or Mac.
The new services are part of an effort to create a global rating system, the International Age Rating Coalition, started in late 2013. The IARC is currently only in use in the Google Play and Firefox Marketplace stores, but Nintendo, PlayStation, and Microsoft Xbox stores have agreed to participate at a later date. The Apple Store and Steam have yet to agree to adopt the system. While Apple does have its own ratings, Steam does not—the latter will display an ESRB rating if the game has one, but in other cases there is no rating displayed. In fact, earlier this year, Steam demonstrated that it may be unclear in its own policies, after the controversially explicit game Hatred was allowed in the store. The game was later removed due to its content (which depicts a mass murderer) and then reinstated in December.
ESRB president and chairperson of the IARC, Patricia Vance, had this to say:
“The market for digital games and mobile apps is exploding across the globe. With a single click, developers can publish their games and apps on digital storefronts reaching a worldwide audience. These realities have created regulatory and cultural challenges that call for an innovative solution like IARC to help developers and storefronts provide consumers with culturally relevant, legally compliant and reliable guidance about the age appropriateness of the content in games and apps they may be considering for download. It is encouraging that digital storefronts recognize the benefits of this groundbreaking initiative.”