Content ratings are required by most major retail platforms before they’ll list a game, and the ESRB, the North American ratings board, is one of the largest ratings-granting organizations in the world. ESRB will be discontinuing their “short form” ratings system, which has allowed smaller developers to obtain a rating free of charge, but they say indie devs should still be able to get rated without having to pay the fee associated with the “long form” used for boxed retail releases.
Developers have been concerned about the announcement that the ESRB will be dropping the free short form rating system since the cost associated with the long form, which includes a rating summary by the board, can in some cases be prohibitive.
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“Another way to squeeze blood out of the indie stone,” Necrosoft director Brandon Sheffield wrote on Twitter May 16.
The ESRB responded to his tweet, saying that digital games and apps developers will still be able to obtain ESRB ratings using the International Age Rating Coalition system, a conglomerate of ratings organizations that secures age ratings for games across multiple regions.
Apparently trying to further quell fears, ESRB clarified further for GamesIndustry.biz, saying that they anticipate “no interruption” for downloadable games to be rated free of charge by the board, and they have not yet set a hard date for discontinuing the short form ratings process.
The IARC process for age rating, like the ESRB’s short form, gives developers and publishers a questionnaire to complete that asks about the content of their game. Based on the responses, the system automatically assigns an age rating for the appropriate territories and storefronts.
IARC represents age rating organizations around the world, including the ESRB, Europe’s PEGI, the Australian Classification Board, and several others.