ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store Games

June 9, 2009 -

Do games on the iTunes App Store need to carry ESRB ratings?

In recent times there have been a number of questionable developments in regard to iPhone apps. Some were banned that perhaps shouldn't have been. Others were cleared for sale despite containing questionable content.

Kotaku reports that ESA boss Mike Gallagher would be open to working with Apple on rating App Store games:

We’ve been down this road before, the entertainment software industry, we know how this goes and it’s wise for (Apple) to make steps in that direction so that this is addressed up front and there is an environment that is hospitable to children and families. It would be wise to do that, we would welcome the opportunity to work with them, we are reaching out to encourage that.

 

That doesn’t mean that every entrepreneur, every software engine that is able to write code and put up an app on the App Store is going to go through this process it simply says that if a game is rated it needs to pass through and be filtered appropriately by the controls that are on the iPhone. That would be a big step in the right direction and it is virtually friction free.

GP: While App Store offerings clearly need some kind of coherent rating system, it's unclear whether the ESRB is the right vehicle. As Gallagher notes, there is a high volume of games on the App Store. If all are not to be rated, of what value is a rating system? Who decides which games need to be rated? What is the ESRB's operational capacity to absorb App Store games into its workload?

Not mentioned by Gallagher, but clearly a factor, are the fees paid by developers to the ESRB have games rated. As GamePolitics reported just yesterday, most App Store games are not making money. Will small-time developers of $0.99 games who are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle on the App Store participate in a rating system which requires them to fork over to the ESRB up front? It seems unlikely.


Comments

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

This seems like a way to take a little more profit out of the game designers pocket... surely they'll want something in return for giving out ratings?

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

"While App Store offerings clearly need some kind of coherent rating system..."

For heaven's sake, WHY?

Why do we need some authoritarian body deciding what games are 'appropriate' (whatever that means) for the members of my family?  The ESRB system has already shown itself to be a de-facto censorship organization - do we really need to expand that to iphone apps?  I mean are we really children in desperate need of more 'Big Brother'?

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

The ESRB can't censor anything, it is merely a issues of what retailers and manufactures will allow on their systems.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

When the games on the mobile that are being developed by low cost indie developers and not all are able to hand in their games to the ESRB because of cost restrictions and also from other countries all over the world with different rating systems...

 

I know, the Apple IPhone should have their own rating system like the Newgrounds site does for their Flash games.

 

IIii = Everyone

IIi = Teens

II = Mature

I = Adults Only

 

Something like that.

 

Also the I is more like an adult and mature audience.

The i are for the teens and younger audience

 

I know I can't show it in text format, but you can get the right idea by going onto newgrounds and see how it works.

 

Because I would appreciate it if Apple has their content rating system but they should also accept that adults play Videogames too, so there needs to be a market for adult games.

 

TBoneTony

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

I wonder if a community rating system like they have on the Xbox Community games would be more applicable.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Futher proof we need new blood in the ESA.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

ESA is to me one of the most annoying things that exist.

 

They always say lots of bullshit that favour only publishers, they never help developers or costumers.

 

Seriously, if each of the 30.000+ games need to pay 30.000 for a rating (I THINK that this is the price, I am not sure), they would bork everything (Specially since the most sucefull games had like... 2000 profit... If the guy had to pay 3000 only like 20 software would remain profitable on the store...)

 

criadordejogos.wordpress.com

--- Maurício Gomes twitter.com/agfgames

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

To be fair, they exist to represent publishers not developers or consumers. So why would they go out of their way to help people who do not pay them dues?

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

To encourage more people to pay them dues perhaps?

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Exactly!

I mean, if they don't piss off consumers and developers, maybe more quality games will exist, thus more consumers, thus more money to publishers, thus more money to ESA!

 

criadordejogos.wordpress.com

--- Maurício Gomes twitter.com/agfgames

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

I guess I should rephrase that. Why would they go out of their way to help people who are not eligible to join their organization and pay them dues?

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Then why would they expect Apple to do so? ESA are just chasing what they see as a cash cow here, simple as that.

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

mikedo2007

No, the ESRB will not work for this one.  We need Apple to put ratings on there. May I suggest Apple to do these rating:

rated Everyone (No equivalent of E10): Any apps or app games with rated Everyone can be downloaded and play by anyone regardless of age.

rated Teen: anyone 13 or older can download and play app game which has violence, suggestive theme, or anything that can be classified as a teen game.

rated mature: anyone 17 or older can download and play app game which has strong graphic violence, blood & gore, Strong Language (any game that say "f"-word 2 time get a mature rating instantly), Sexual themes, Nudity, Strong Sexual Content (that does not include pornographic sex, it would need a adult rating 18 or older, and I recommend no pornographic apps at all just to make those hypocrites happy), big uses of drug and/or alcohol, and other thing that may need mature rating.

 

Every game apps would need these, I think little kids probably aren't smart enough to operate Iphone.  We can add parental control and password just like on our current game consoles (for unlocking and allowing person to play teen and mature game apps) for those very smart little kid who are smart on techno stuff.  Tell Apple, no censorship, it would look like how Nintendo did when they censored a lot of stuff on their game (NES, SNES).  In order to download mature rated game apps, the person who pay for getting game apps needs to be over 17 (or 21, depend on how apple set up the rule).

 

That would be my idea how I can set up ratings and standard about game apps.  Anyone want to throw in any suggestions??    

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

What's the difference between "Suggestive theme" and "Sexual theme". You've already introduced levels of gray

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

mikedo2007

I think you need to do more research on the difference between these two.  "Sexual Theme" and "Suggestive Theme" are two different thing.  I'm not in the gray, but you need to understand the meaning of these two.

According to the ESRB:

 

Sexual themes-references to sex or sexuality

Suggestive themes-Mild provocative references or materials

 

If these 2 words are the same, why didn't they just use one of these 2 words instead of having one game saying sexual themes and another one saying Suggestive themes.  I've seen games carrying both of these word on the description (don't ask me which game, I forgot).  Now you know the differences between these 2 words or do you need me to teach you another lesson. 

 

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Unless you're talking violence, provocative is a reference to sex.

 

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

mikedo2007

Then why the ESRB needs both Suggestive Theme and Sexual theme if they both mean the same thing? I think these two are different.  So you think these two are the same, uh.

so according to your logics:

Cartoon Violence, Fantasy Violence, and Intense Violence are the same thing right?  So I guess that means games that has any of these violence even if it's a Looney Tune-type violence is a automatic M-rating, right.

Comic Mischief, Crude Humor, and Sexual Humor are the same thing right?  So I guess Slapstick joke something out of a children cartoon show is by default a M-rating, right.

Animated Blood, and Blood are the same thing right??

 

 

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Personally, I have never understood the difference between animated blood and blood. Isn't all blood in games animated? I do realize that it is in the intensity, color and such that really makes the difference, but they could make it more clear in the terminology.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

mikedo2007

Yeah, that one was confusing.  But I think I know the difference between these two.  This is from the ESRB

Animated Blood-discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood.  Maybe it means alien blood, monster blood, or any blood that are not human.

Blood-depiction of blood. Maybe it means human blood.

 

I'm not quite sure if that's correct or not.  I remember Metal Gear Solid 2 was rated for animated blood even though the blood in the game are human most of the time.  Blacksite: Area 51 was rated for blood (even though the alien in the game bled differently from human).  I really don't understand the ESRB when it comes to putting the description for games.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

Suggestive Theme: "Hey baby. Want to come to my place for some hot coffee?"

Sexual Theme: "Hey baby. Want a Blow Job?"

See the difference?

Provocative references in this instance is refering to enuendo.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

mikedo2007

Thank you, E. Zachary.  I'm trying to teach this dude how these words are different.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

No more than movie ratings already have.

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

I'm not even sure how that would work.  A rating on Bejewelled 2 is simple enough, but what about the "games" that are as much social networking?  If the Facebook app allowed support for Facebook games, would the ESRB then need to rate that?  If it's a port of a PC game (again, see Bejewelled 2), does it get the same rating at the PC one automatically or does it have to be rated separately?

No way it works or eliminates grey area.  It just creates a different grey area.

 -Rated P for Pyromantic

Re: ESA Boss Willing to Apply ESRB Ratings to App Store ...

"Online interactions not rated by [insert rating board here]."

-If an apple a day keeps the doctor away....what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

-Optimum est pati quod emendare non possis-It is best to endure what you cannot change-

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

Edge Reported on this and I will say what I said there.

The ESRB would not work for the App Store as the costs associated with gaining an ESRB rating are out of reach for the majority of App developers.

A system such as XNA CG would be more benficial if the approval process were better streamlined. That is the biggest bottle neck in getting a working rating system going.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

I was about to say the exact same thing.  As someone who's working on making the leap into iPhone games I definitely do not want to see the ESRB involved in the app store.  I don't want to have to come up with $1k for a rating every time I'm ready to publish a game.  The cost of entry to the Mac development world are bad enough.

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

Further proof of formal ratings systems being outdated, unworkable and obsolete, really...

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

I wouldn't say that they are "outdated, unworkable and obsolete", but that they are not universally applicable. There is a big difference.

The ESRB/BBFC etc ratings work on a large scale where budgets are quite large, but when budgets to develop a game are in the thousands rather than hundreds of thousands or millions, it is not applicable. It would be detremental to require a developer to spend the same or possibly more money for a rating than they spent on developing their game.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

If it's not universally applicable (or, at least, applicable to any less than the vastest of vast majorities), then it's unworkable- people operating on the fringe of a system (as we have today) are one thing, a system like the iPhone is another altogether.

Outdatedness and obsolecence come from elsewhere.

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

I don't see why.  Rating could be available for those who want it, but not required of everybody.  All it would take is to include the option to restrict unrated purchases when you are setting the other restrictions based on ratings.  That way developers who are not targeting the younger demographics anyway don't need to go through the hassle, and the parents who do want to restrict content can do so, knowing that only games rated suitably low enough will be accessible.

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

And that will only work until everyone realises that a rating is unnecessary expense and hassle- it's only going to take one "wrong" rating to piss a developer off about the service's ratings system, if not from the iPhone as a whole.

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

The only reason the ESRB is not universally applicable is the cost. Everything else would work fine for iPhone and other small games.

With the ESRB, the game developer pays a fee (not sure of the exact cost but I do know it is in the several thousands) for each game they want rated. That is not a bad deal when the game costs a couple of million and a couple years to make. But when you can make 6-12 games a year and would have to pay say $2000 for every one of those games, it is a henderance more than a benefit. If the cost were lower say $100 per game it would be applicable to most any situation.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

That still doesn't cover the issue of quantity (although, to be fair, a viable fee for each game makes that point moot) and, of course, getting each and every developer to agree to submit their title to a/ a ratings board, and b/ that specific ratings board. And then submit it to the next one for the next country along. And again for the country after that.

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

To get to submit would be on Apples part. All games for Consoles are required to have an ESRB rating (with the exception of XNA CG games, they have their own ratings). It is part of the license agreements.

If apple required game developers to get a rating as a requirement to getting approved for the app store, that would solve the issue. But of course the cost to get said rating would have to mirror the low barrier to entry that the app store currently has or it will alienate small developers.

The other option is a self applied rating that Apple verifies during the approval process.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

>The other option is a self applied rating that Apple verifies during the approval process.

Which wouldn't be a "formal" ratings system, now, would it?

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

Couldn't the ESRB start with a informal system using basic standards rate the game to the guidelines IE, nudity makes M, dismemberment+blood+harsh lang= M, blood=T  then they could give a game an over view as it comes to them then set the rating, they can fine people for mis labeling content and refund money for when they make a mistake(like on oblivion). I do realize the ESRB is a profit based company so why not get 0.01% of anything a game makes up to 5-10 grand pre game, it would take so little out of day to day profits and this way you can expand operations to most digital formats opening up thousands more titles to review bringing in more money, of course one could pay up front whatever their rate is now but ti opens things up to most apps and games..

 


I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay's outside our bedrooms..


http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

---

http://zippydsm.deviantart.com/

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

"The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association"

The ESRB is a what based company now?  Also, why the fuck should they get 5000 dollars?  The going rate is 800 dollars for games with production costs under 250K, and 4000 for games with production cost OVER 250K.

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

I thought i was closer to 2K for ratings approval, and run like for a profit business, my bad my bad....I really need to get the fuzz out of my head (and my head out of my...oh you know :P) ><


So lets take it down a notch a 1600-2000 limit when you go with a payment plan, should not be to hard to automatize payments based off whats earned off a title at 2%-5%  or so increments, the reason for the up in price is due to the way things are processed, the up side most things get rated the down side  2$ for every 100 you earn go to the ESRB, most titles wont make it to the 100K earned mark to pay off  the 2K extended fee but if you have 1000 games that make 100$ each thats 2000 earned and most of these games/apps can be reviewed and approved for a ranting by a one page or 2 page form kicking the title either to approval or double checking.

TL : DR :sub out approval to the ESRB, pay yearly licensing/contract fees and 2-5% of a titles profit up to double or tipple the normal rate, use a simplified no brainier 1 or 2 page form filtering system if you have to stop and think about the ranting knock it up for further review, add disclaimers games/apps can be removed or rantings can change at any time.

Also you could just pay them a larger yearly fee (50-100K, or roughly a years worth of titles at 1-10$ a pop) and take 0.1% or 1% from developers to off set the costs of the process.

Dose that sound any more sane?


Also heres another idea(to be shot down :P) if its not targeting minors then tis restricted from them using some kind of password authentication on the device thats turned on by the parent. If tis not targeting  minors then it dose not have to be rated,  then  for those who want a rating or to target minors get the 0.01-1% fee taken from what they profit from sells. 


Which makes me think why can't we have a system like that for normal rating?

 


I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay's outside our bedrooms..


http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com


Copyright infringement is nothing more than civil disobedience to a bad set of laws. Let's renegotiate them.

---

http://zippydsm.deviantart.com/

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

It would be formal if the terms and ratings themselves were prescribe by apple for use in their App store. It would be like XNA CG games. the ratings they are given are "formal" when applied to XNA games but those ratings are not used for games outside that service.

So if Apple were to create their own App Store Age Ratings and all apps had to have one applied, it would be the formal App Store Rating.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

And then we're back around to the (effective) cost of that still being accessible to small developers- adding a level of complexity past the current binary pass/fail of the App Store can only have a detrimental effect on the low cost of dev kits and/or Apple's cut of sales.

/b

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

Not really. Apple currently charges a $100 processing fee for apps. They already check apps for content that is against their licensing aggreement. The added cost of verifying that an app meets the self applied rating would be neglegible when compared to the overall process of approving apps. There would most likely be no additional cost to the current processing fee.

Edit: Actually many devs are calling out for at least an open and publicly available list of content that is allowed and not. Currently the approval process is very messy and many apps will be banned for having content that other apps contain yet were approved. Other apps are banned not because they contain banned content, but it is likely that someone can access that content through the app. So a formal rating system for apps would actually be beneficial and welcomed by most app developers. /Edit.

The XNA rating adds no additional cost to an XNA developer. All developers are charged the same $100 per year to develop and use the service. Verifying the rating the developer applies is part of the approval process there. They have a fully functioning rating system that does not alienate small developers. Apple could very easily emulate that with no additional costs to the developer.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

Apple are not going to do any extra work if the costs (negligable though they may be) are expected to come out of THEIR cut from Devs, simple as that.

--------------------------------------------------

I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: ESA Boss Open to Applying ESRB Rating to App Store Games

They are already doing 90% of what would be required of it. The only thing left to do is to base their approval and rating approval off a public content listing rather than the reviewers's personal bias and opinion.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

 
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