332 THE GAME PRODUCTION HANDBOOK, 2/E
20.2 SOFTWARE AGE RATINGS
Publishers will apply for a rating for each country in which the game is released.
The normal procedure is for the publisher to submit a beta or near final version
of the game, along with documentation, to the appropriate rating the board. The
board then reviews the materials and assigns a rating. In some countries, the
rating is not required by law, but many retailers will not stock unrated games, so
it is in the publisher’s best interests to submit all of their games for a rating. In
some countries, such as Germany, a game is required by law to receive a rating
before it can be released for sale. There is usually a fee involved that can run
from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Any games released internationally must be reviewed the appropriate rat-
ings board for each country it is released in. A game to be released in the U.S.,
Europe, Asia, and Australia will need to secure ratings from at least six differ-
ent ratings boards, and each one has a separate process and set of guidelines
for securing a rating. For example, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board
(ESRB) rates games that are released in the United States; Pan European Game
Information (PEGI) rates games distributed in most of Europe; and the Office
of Film & Literature Classification (OFLC) rates games released in Australia.
The guidelines are fairly subjective, so it can be difficult for publishers to
determine what rating a specific game will receive. For example, the ESRB does
not have specific rules on what constitutes a Teen (T) or Mature (M) rating.
They are happy to offer some feedback on what rating the game might get, but
nothing is guaranteed until the game is officially submitted and reviewed by the
ratings board. Other countries have different guidelines, and so something that
is rated as appropriate for teens by the ESRB, may be rated as inappropriate
for teens by the OFLC. When in pre-production, think about the game’s target
audience and determine what ratings best suit this audience, and then develop
the game within acceptable guidelines.
In general, the ratings boards are concerned with the behavior and actions
depicted in the game, not necessarily the whether the game is challenging and
fun. The boards’ main goals are to prevent children and teenagers from being ex-
posed to content that is deemed inappropriate for their age group. As mentioned
previously, this is a subjective process, but the boards make a concerted effort to
provide ratings within reason. The main areas of concern are:
Sex and nudity