The ESRB and the CTIA detailed a new ratings systems for mobile games this week – backed by such companies as AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. Two companies that were curiously absent from that list hold the lion's share of the market when it comes to platforms: Apple and Google. Both companies said publicly that it didn't make a lot of sense for them to sign on to the new ratings system because they already had their own systems in place. While developers and publishers will argue about the pluses and minuses of both ratings systems, it looks like they are here to stay. This obviously hurts the ESRB's efforts to create a ratings system for North America that covers every kind of mobile game.
GameIndustry.biz has a story on this – featuring the comments from both companies on why they opted to go it alone when it comes to ratings, but the most interesting part of the article are comments from Rafael Brown, a design lead at id Software. Responding to other commenters, Brown lays out some compelling reasons why the two platform holders decided to keep the ratings in-house:
"@Gabriel – Do your homework, the ESRB is not an independent body anymore than the MPAA is. They are self regulating bodies. @Michelle – You realize that there is no global ratings system? If you create a PC/console global release you could be submitting to 10 different ratings bodies easily. There will always be regional differences. Different countries want their own ratings systems.
By asking for one system you completely ignore _why_ Apple and Google want to control their own ratings. Small developers may not have the time or money to submit to multiple ratings systems. Apple and Google are providing an actual unified ratings system for their platform. This is a first. They're doing what you asked for, better than the PC/Console space. Why are you criticizing?
And Apple and Google technically sell in more markets. Apple iTunes sells in 126 countries. All ratings systems combined cover less than half of those countries. What do you suggest Apple does for the other 60-80 not covered?
Mobile development can be fast in pace and some of the developers are quite small. Asking a garage developer of two people to submit to the same regulatory body run by EA, Acti, Ubi, MSoft, Sony, Ninty, etc ignores that garage devs can't afford to.
Apple and Google are thinking of the range of developers that develop on their platform, of that I'm thankful. As for complaining about what sticker is on the box… digital games have no box. Please learn about a platform before you make random complaints about it."
The real question is how much does it hurt the ESRB's efforts when its ratings don't cover a majority of the mobile games being produced today? Some would say it seriously undercuts their efforts…