The new Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s more automated ratings system went live earlier this week, enabling the ratings system for North America process game ratings in a more timely fashion. The ESRB streamlined the process to deal with the rapid release of games on digital platforms such as Apple’s App store, Android Marketplace, Xbox Live Marketplace, PlayStation Store, and on Nintendo’s WiiWare.
The new system asks developers to answer eight multiple choice questions about a submitted game, which is passed along to the ratings board (along with game code on DVD to be reviewed later) with $500 to get a rating for their game as quickly as 24 hours later. ESRB head honcho Patricia Vance says that the ratings board has "contemplated what it might take to deal with thousands of small games being submitted to various platforms on a daily basis, she adds that the new system makes such a gargantuan task a possibility.
"If you look at what we constructed here it’s scalable to address whatever volume you want and it’s low cost and it is very effective," she told Kotaku. "I think there is no question that mobile devices are a very important part of the pie."
Under the old ratings system, which is still being used for traditional boxed retail games, a developer needs to fill out a questionnaire and submit their answers along with a DVD to the ratings board. The filing fee is $4,500 and the turnaround is about a week.
Under both the new and old systems, developers sign an agreement that holds them liable for any deception about the games they submit. This is to avoid any "hot coffee" incidents.
Vance says that the ESRB has the ability to enforce ratings changes and penalties very quickly.