Last week the Entertainment Software Ratings Board brought new that it was partnering with the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association in order to bring game ratings to mobile games, something that had been missing for some time now. Today they finally announced details of the deal.
With this new deal, mobile game developers will be able to get an official ESRB rating to display with their games and marketing materials. The ratings are free to get and are completely voluntary. So there is no real issue of any coercion on the part of developers. This can be a great service for many mobile phone users, especially those who have kids.
This move follows an earlier move this year to bring low cost and automated ratings process to developers with limited budgets. That move allowed developers who make games for the PC or downloadable console services to get a rating without the need to have financial backing of a publisher.
What is interesting to me is just how late in the game the ESRB is to the mobile ratings game. With the announcement, the ESRB listed a bunch of mobile phone providers which have partnered with them, but Google and Apple are not part of them. This isn’t really surprising as both of those companies have already been using self created and assigned ratings for quite some time. Had this move come 2 or more years ago, the ESRB might have been able to get them on board.
Sadly, without Apple and Google on board for these ratings, the ESRB is really locked out of the two biggest mobile markets. This will severely damage their ability to gain a large market share in app ratings. While a developer can display ESRB ratings in those markets nothing in those app stores will be tied to it in any way. Game developer will still need to be assigned a rating by Apple and Google to work with filters and age gates.
While I support the ESRB in this new endeavor, this unfortunately shows once again its inability to shift with changes in the gaming climate. When it is not in a reactionary position, such as with the ‘Hot Coffee’ fiasco, it is evolving slowly. It takes way too much time to make necessary changes to its ratings process and even the ratings themselves. It really needs to be more proactive in changes in the gaming landscape in order to retain its relevancy outside console gaming.