ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in Marketing Campaign

May 13, 2013 -

An online marketing campaign for the free-to-play MMO game Wartune has caught the attention of the ESRB, who claims that it has asked the game's "publisher" to stop claiming that it has an ESRB "Adults Only" (AO) rating. The game has yet to be rated by the board, according to the organization.

"We have advised the game's publisher that they must discontinue their unauthorized use of our AO rating icon in its marketing," an ESRB representative told GamesIndustry International.

Even if the game did have an AO rating, the marketing campaign that has appeared on such popular websites as Major Nelson's Blog and through Google's AdSense network violates the ESRB's advertising guidelines which prohibit exploiting a game's ratings. Wartune's advertising campaign features the AO rating symbol and the tagline "Adult Gamers Only."

"While it's fairly rare for a game to self-apply a rating we will always move quickly to address the issue," the ESRB representative continued. "Our goal is, of course, that they immediately stop using the rating. If a game is digitally distributed, we also encourage companies to use our Digital Rating Service, which is fast and easy and assigns ratings without the developer having to pay a fee."

The big question mark is who exactly did the ESRB contact to deliver its ultimatum. The game is apparently published in multiple online game portals including Kabam, Kongregate, Armor Games, NGames, R2Games, and Proficient City Limited. The game is developed by China-based by 7 Road.

Source: GII by way of Develop


Re: ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in ...

I was wondering when they'd act.  Wartunes uses quite a lot of... shall we say, copyright liberties, in promoting their thingy.

Re: ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in ...

Looks like the ESRB is beginning to suffer the same affliction the MPAA had in regards to its X rating. Due to the nature of the industry and how it fails to use the AO rating properly, it is now being high jacked by people who want to use it as some kind of "badge of honor" in marketing. 

I can't say that I pity the ESRB. They have had this coming for a while. I don't blame them entirely though. It was mostly the Big 3 console companies and the large retailers who drove them to this point.

Re: ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in ...

Hrm.. so does that mean when 'AO' is not shocking enough, publishers are going to start labeling their games "AAA"?

Re: ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in ...

I wonder if it'll lead to the "other" problem the MPAA had with the rating (and still has with NC-17 and even R).

Parental awareness and theater enforcement of movie ratings made an R rating undesirable, so some studios would pad a movie that might get an R with some more nudity or violence, giving them something they can remove to negotiate a PG-13.

And they use that as a marketing too, too. This is where unrated versions came from, and it's also a big reason why ratings creep has made a modern PG-13 comparable to an 80's/early 90's R.

Re: ESRB Warns Wartunes 'Publisher' about Using AO Rating in ...

I would love to see a time when unrated games are sold along side rated games in retail just like unrated and rated movies are.

As for padding a game, I think it already happens. Manhunt 2 was a good example of that. I am not privy to very many games that go through the AO to M conversion, but I think game developers take into consideration what they may have to remove if they think they are pushing up against the M rating's upper limits.

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