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ESRB Starts Auto-Rating Downloadable Games

by Matthew Kato on Apr 18, 2011 at 04:57 AM

Industry ratings organization the ESRB has announced it is switching to an automated questionnaire format to rate downloadable games.

In attempt to keep up with all the titles that are appearing on Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and WiiWare, the ESRB has announced that it is switching its ratings process for these titles to a questionnaire filled out by the publisher and checked by an ESRB automated system. Currently, the ESRB rates disc-based console games through a different style of questionnaire and a content sample DVD reviewed by three ESRB raters.

The new multiple-choice questionnaire breaks down numerous content categories to glean its rating. For instance, offensive language is also broken down into subcategories such as racial obscenities, scatological vulgarities, sexual obscenities, and more, and the questionnaire also inquires about context such as the game's visual realism, incentives ("i.e., whether a certain action is meant to be avoided or results in failure" according to the ESRB press release), camera perspective, and more. The ESRB says that this new method of rating downloadable titles will also involve a DVD, but this will only be screened after the game has been released.

“This new rating process considers the very same elements weighed by our raters," says ESRB president Patricia Vance. "The biggest difference is in our ability to scale this system as necessary while keeping our services affordable and accessible.”

The ESRB says that any game that tries to skirt this new process will immediately be pulled from sale, and any mistakes made in the automating ratings system will be corrected.