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.