European games ratings body PEGI says that it will re-evaluate its ratings system when Virtual Reality games arrive next year.
The firm says it will take a closer look at how it assesses fear and horror in terms of suitability for young audiences.
Presumably the group is considering whether a PG rated jump scare could turn out to be far more scary than that in virtual reality.
It follows comments from Sony's Worldwide Studio boss Shuhei Yoshida, who told Digital Spy at Paris Games Week that
a new ratings system might be needed for games that could cause 'trauma'.
PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told MCV:
PEGI should examine the coming wave of VR products using the current questionnaire, but
reserve the right to reassess certain elements -- more specifically the criteria around fear (currently rated PEGI 7) and horror (as in non-violent scary imagery, currently rated PEGI 12) -- once a broader range of products hits the market in the coming
period of time.
Gamasutra cites small game developers speaking about the PEGI games classification group:
We have to work with them, and they have some crazy policies that are not cool for indies, he told me. You can't put your game on an
Xbox or PlayStation without a PEGI rating, and they charge thousands of dollars.
By comparison, getting the game ESRB-rated so the game could be sold in the U.S. costs nothing; the ESRB rolled out a free, streamlined voluntary rating
service to digital platforms years ago.
PEGI designed its licensing fee scheme for digital games based on how it's been rating physical video game releases since 2003: with the expectation that publishers would foot the bill. But the rise of
self-publishing has created situations where the biggest line item on a small developer's budget may well be ratings board licensing fees. That in turn is putting pressure on indies not to release their games in Europe on platforms that require PEGI
ratings, i.e. Xbox Games Store, Sony's PSN and Nintendo's eShop. Indies are paying roughly $300-$1,000 per platform for a PEGI rating
PEGI knows this. It's been taking fire on this front from members of the European game industry for some time (UK
game industry trade body TIGA called on PEGI last year to reform what it called unreasonably high and repetitious fees ) and when I sat down with agency communications manager Dirk Bosmans at Gamescom last month, he tried to offer both an
explanation and the promise of a near future where no indie will have to pay for a rating on a Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo platform ever again.
But first, he acknowledged PEGI's fees are an outdated relic of the way the video game industry used to
operate. They're also the primary thing keeping PEGI in business. PEGI knows this is a problem, but it wants to maintain income
Our money comes from fees that publishers pay to get a ratings license...that's basically
our only source of income. When we were at the height of the console cycle, there were lots of games. That's come down in the past few years, so obviously our income is shrinking.
A couple of years ago, if you'd asked me [whether
PEGI fees have a chilling effect on European game releases], the answer probably would have been no, because in order to release a game in a box on a shelf you'd need a lot of funds. But because digital is so much more accessible, it's much easier to
release a game, but we still charge the same.
To help consumers make informed choices on Google Play, we're introducing a new rating system for apps and games. These ratings provide an easy way to communicate familiar and locally relevant content ratings to your users and help improve app engagement
by targeting the right audience for your content.
Starting in May, consumers worldwide will see the current Google Play rating scale replaced with their local rating on the Play Store. Territories that are not covered by a
specific International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) rating authority will be assigned an age-based, generic rating.
To prevent your apps' from being listed as Unrated, sign in to your Google Play Developer Console and fill
out the questionnaire for each of your apps as soon as possible. Unrated apps may be blocked in certain territories or for specific users.
Beginning May 5, 2015, all new apps and updates to existing apps will need to have a
completed content rating questionnaire before they can be published. As a Google Play Developer, your compliance and participation with the new app ratings system is required under the Google Play Developer Distribution Agreement. Apps that aren't rated
using the new rating system may be removed from the Play Store.
Note: All apps and games on Google Play are required to follow the Google Play Developer Content Policy.
To receive a rating for each of your apps and games, you fill out a rating questionnaire on the Google Play Developer Console about the nature of your apps' content and receive a content rating from multiple rating authorities. The
ratings assigned to your app displayed on Google Play are determined by your questionnaire responses.
You're responsible for completing the content rating questionnaire for:
New apps submitted on the Developer Console Existing apps that are active on Google Play All app updates where there has been a change to app content or features that would affect the responses to the questionnaire
To benefit users, developers should use the assigned rating when advertising their app in each respective region, subject to display guidelines.
App ratings are not meant to reflect the intended audience. The ratings are intended to help consumers, especially parents, identify potentially objectionable content that exists within an app.
All rating icons
are protected trademarks of the respective rating authority and their misuse may result in legal action.
Important: Make sure to provide accurate responses to the content rating questionnaire. Misrepresentation of your app's
content may result in removal or suspension.
Rating authorities & descriptions
The bodies involved are:
The Australian Classification Board
Classifcacao Indicativa, which covers Brazil
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which looks after North America
Pan European Game Information (Pegi), which is used by the UK
and 29 other European countries
Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle, which is specific to Germany
Australian Classification Board
Generic ratings are assigned to territories without a participating authority. There is also a variant set of ages used for App ratings in South Korea.
The app store, Google Play has introduced an international rating scheme.
Developers fill in a questionnaire as to whether their app contains nudity or strong language etc and then an automated system assigns an age rating dependant on the locale.
Local censorship variations will apply, eg an app might be okay for children in one Europe, but not in the US.
In North America, ratings are based off of the ESRB ratings that are usually seen on games (though they apply to non-game apps as well).
In Europe, PEGI is used, and so on. Regions without an established ratings authority will receive a generic age rating.
The automated rating system will be backed up by an app review team composed of actual human beings who will also check out
disputed or controversial ratings. The team will make decisions about ratings within hours of submission.
Google is also rolling more detailed information on app publishing statuses, giving developers more insight into why their apps may not be
published right away.