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Mobile Industry Rolls Out Game Rating System

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the rated-g-for-good-luck-with-that dept.

AT&T 49

alphadogg writes "Mobile telecom trade group CTIA and the Entertainment Software Rating Board will roll out a rating system for mobile applications similar to ratings on other electronic games, the groups announced Tuesday. Six mobile application storefronts will support the rating system and will roll out the ratings in the coming months, CTIA said. AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are the founding members of the rating system." An opinion piece at Gamasutra points out that this initiative falls a bit flat without Apple or Google on board, since iOS and Android are so vital to the current mobile gaming industry. "In the long run, the ESRB/CTIA announcement could be another sign of shifting power in the gaming industry. Normally, the ESRB gets what it wants. But it has no leverage against Apple and Google."

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Summary of the Ratings... (3, Funny)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223926)

"It's as addictive as Angry Birds"
"It'll pass the time like Bubble Breaker"
"As fun as Snake"
"Sorry, you can't delete the Demo"

Re:Summary of the Ratings... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225880)

as long as they have the following warning i've no problem with the new system -

"Like all mobile apps, this is for entertainment purposes only - and like all apps it is a self-imposed fine on stupidity. It is aimed at mindless cocksuckers with an extreme tendency to fall for hype, and those that are foolish enough to pay for each and every one of their favorite web pages."

Re:Summary of the Ratings... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38226206)

shhhhhhh.... devs are making a lot of money out of these zombies!

a lot of apple people come here you insensitive clod!

Re:Summary of the Ratings... (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226112)

I am having a blast with Guitar Hero Mobile, which came pre-installed on my TMo HD2 (whose original ROM I just flashed last week, after years of custom ROMs).

Because this system isn't working (5, Funny)

Zaldarr (2469168) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223950)

Re:Because this system isn't working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38223996)

Not that kind of rating you idiot...

Re:Because this system isn't working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224010)

Well you laugh, but here in Japan, we do have earthquake alerts built into our phones, so I suppose tornados aren't out of the question.

Re:Because this system isn't working (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225368)

Do the Earthquake alerts have a vibrate mode?

/ can I get a rimshot?

Re:Because this system isn't working (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225498)

http://instantrimshot.com/ [instantrimshot.com]

And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (4, Insightful)

Pichu0102 (916292) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223964)

Eventually people are going to want phone makers to make Ratings mandatory to get sold on app stores, and once that happens, you can say goodbye to cheap mobile games, or mobile games in general. Fees and having to wait for your game to be reviewed when hundreds of new games pop up in the review queue daily will bring mobile gaming to its knees.

Re:And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (4, Insightful)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224118)

Eventually people are going to want phone makers to make Ratings mandatory to get sold on app stores

Except the phone makers don't have much leverage themselves (with Android). It's Google's system, and it's not like the phone makers are valued clients on fat contracts. Google can afford refuse them. With iPhone, it's even less likely, given that Apple has never given a stuff what anyone thinks.

Of course, with Android, even that doesn't matter, since the Android Marketplace is just one purveyor of apps among many - albeit, the default one.

Short a legal requirement forcing them to do so, I doubt Google or Apple are going to voluntarily start requiring ratings. It's a losing move for whoever does it first, for the reasons you pointed out.

Re:And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224716)

Short a legal requirement forcing them to do so, I doubt Google or Apple are going to voluntarily start requiring ratings. It's a losing move for whoever does it first, for the reasons you pointed out.

It's not beyond Apple to lobby for them, with their stance on morality I'm sure they'd love to have ratings. Unfortunately, they wouldn't even need an adult rating :(

Re:And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224926)

Apple already requires ratings for apps. They even include "content descriptors". I'm looking at Infinity Blade 2 right now and it says:

"Rated 9+ for the following: Infrequent/Mild Mature/Suggestive Themes, Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence and Infrequent/Mild Realistic Violence."

Also there's a link to a EULA from the publisher, . What an odious development that is, given that you're already agreeing to Apple's EULA.

Rating != ESRB rating (2)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226790)

But "9+" isn't an ESRB rating and thus doesn't imply that the publisher paid the ESRB's fee, which can run into the hundreds of USD or thousands of USD.

Re:Rating != ESRB rating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38294244)

How is a rating going to "Protect the Children!" any better than a review. This just means fewer games at higher cost. Less variety. Chilling effect on creativity and a pain for people that code for fun and sandwich money.

Re:And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224720)

At least with Apple there is. They depend on the dev to give a true rating, but there is one in place. The thing swinging over dev's heads is if they dont' rate responsibly. Making a gory fragfest, and labeling it kids & lollypops won't be on the store for long. Same goes for X rated material on the iOS store. Flattly just isn't there instead of dealing with the eventual legal headaches. Whereas the videogame market before the ESRB came about the dev's didn't really put the level of debauchery located inside. They left it up to parents to ya know, pay attention, and still do. Instead now parents ignore the M rating, and buy their kid kinky fragfest 2012, then act shocked theres creatures with saggy tits, limbs being dismembered, and baaaad words being spoken.

Oh, and you have any clue what the ESRB charges minimum to rate a game? $800, and that's for games developed as indie on the Vita. It costs less than that to roll a Mac mini & a year dev licence from Apple.

Re:And then mobile gaming ground to a halt. (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227126)

They don't 'depend' on the dev, they have testors verifying the apps before release, remember?

The devs self rate, and Apple approves if the self rate seems appropriate. You'll get rejected if your self-rating is clearly wrong.

Re:And then mobile gaming .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38230426)

As someone who's been in the position of photoshopping a "Cold Beer" neon sign to "Cold Bear", removing a Gun display from behind a Tuscon Biker bar, Extending dresses, covering stray nipples, turning red blood into shiny yellow impact effects and various other similar tasks in order to work around such ratings in the pre Iphone mobile game industry. I can say that this is hardly new. It just used to be the carriers enforcing whatever arbitrary ratings systems/censorship they happened to hold dear. Now it's Apple. Android may be a grey zone but if it happens, it'll be inconvenient but I doubt the industry will so much as blink, much less slow down.

Homeland Security Like? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38223976)

Are the going to copy the homeland security system.

This game is rated Sunset Orange.

Re:Homeland Security Like? (1)

Jstlook (1193309) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224008)

I want to play the games rated Soylent Green!

Re:Homeland Security Like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224686)

But when something is rated nightmare green you should stay away from it.

Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (1)

jonwil (467024) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224172)

Doesn't Apple already have a rating system for iOS apps?

Re:Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38224220)

Yup, where do you think your 30% goes?

Re:Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (2)

Theophany (2519296) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224250)

Yep, and just like that 'mature content for persons over 17' warning, an ESRB warning will also be ignored by app purchasers.

The whole idea seems daft seeing as it cannot realistically be policed. The only example of policing consumer ages I've ever seen is a few sites that require consumers to send in a photocopy/email/fax of ID to confirm their age when buying alcohol online. I hardly think Google or Apple will decide they need to do this because somebody is trying to purchase Infinity Blade II or similar.

And, without forgetting the obvious example, there is Steam. Steam give such a massive shit about selling 18 rated games to minors. So much so that you have to enter your DOB before you can view an age restricted game; I'm sure age ratings were done with an honour system in mind. The local video game stores always assumed the fake beard I wore when trying to purchase Duke Nukem back in the day was real and definitely didn't ask me for ID.

Re:Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227182)

The whole idea seems daft seeing as it cannot realistically be policed.

iOS is more than happy to enforce the 'parental' controls that will prevent you from playing games with ratings higher than allowed.

While you can argue that the device can be 'jailbroken' to get around it, that argument doesn't apply to a 12 year old who doesn't know about jail breaking yet and which I can detect easily.

Also, there wasn't an active rating system when you bought Duke Nukem. Maybe if you're referring to DN3D?

Re:Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229860)

you have to enter your DOB before you can view an age restricted game

Every single time. You'd think after the tenth time it would remember me how old I am. I always just tell it I was born in 1925 anyway, so it's really not that good of a protection.

Re:Doesn't Apple already have a rating system? (0)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224714)

Doesn't Apple already have a rating system for iOS apps?

Yep, apps that Jobs approve of are sold, and apps that are deemed in any way not suitable for an Apple user are not.

Misleading Title (5, Interesting)

Keyboarder (965386) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224292)

The title should have been "ESRB Rolls Out Game Rating System For Mobile, Is Completely Ignored By Mobile Industry". Seriously! Neither Apple nor Google intend to support this thing, so it's pretty much dead in the water. This is before even considering the damage it would do to mobile gaming. I guess it wouldn't be the first /. title to be off.

Re:Misleading Title (2)

bberens (965711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226068)

Never underestimate the power of "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" marketing. It will take a while, maybe even a couple years, but a lobbyist and/or marketing firm will find some kid who played a violent video game and shoots up a school or sees porn or something and the media will get involved, there will be a Congressional hearing, and Apple/Google will cave.

Re:Misleading Title (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#38228518)

Never underestimate the power of "THINK OF THE CHILDREN" marketing. It will take a while, maybe even a couple years, but a lobbyist and/or marketing firm will find some kid who played a violent video game and shoots up a school or sees porn or something and the media will get involved, there will be a Congressional hearing, and Apple/Google will cave.

Except Apple (and probably Android, but I haven't looked deeply into it) already do have content ratings and parental controls.

And Apple's parental rating system is more fine grained than what the ESRB is proposing. So at the next Congressional hearing, Apple would simply point out that it's supported it from Day 1 (2008) and it's a better system than what the ESRB is proposing.

And any law has to provide an "or equivalent" type in it - they can't write into the law that the ESRB system MUST be used.

Apple's already underwent "think of the children" many times. Like removal of objectionable screenshots, leading to the removal of apps containing "objectional" (both senses) content. And the locking down of the App Store purchasing (including options to restrict purchasing altogether) to prevent kids from racking up $1000 smurfberries.

At best, Apple and Google will allow use of ESRB ratings if developers choose, but probably with the restriction that it maps to the highest level possible (e.g., M game gets 18+ with all content specifiers checked).

Couldn't they just use the same ESRB system? (4, Insightful)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38224374)

If this is just an application of the same ESRB ratings to mobile games (which is suggested with "The CTIA Mobile Application Rating System with ESRB will utilize the well-known and trusted age rating icons that ESRB assigns to computer and video games to provide parents and consumers reliable information about the age-appropriateness of applications." in the press release), then this doesn't warrant a story, as smartphones and their ilk are computers (however hobbled by their small form and bad service providers).

If they'll instead use a new set of rating categories or descriptors, then it's wasted effort, as they could've just applied the ESRB ones to these games since they're becoming more and more like computer and console games (partly because, well, smartphones are computers). In this case, it not only doesn't warrant a story but does warrant a point-and-laugh for the repetitive noobs they are.

Also, slapping A Capitalized Slogan(R) in front of your name more than once per page, as if to be part of it, is highly loathsome and annoying; and I want to physically harm whoever made "onboard" a verb.

Re:Couldn't they just use the same ESRB system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225380)

Onboard is used as an adjective in the summary. It has been used for hundreds of years to indicate one is physically-present upon a ship or other vessel.

Re:Couldn't they just use the same ESRB system? (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227424)

I wasn't talking about the summary, which looks quite fine to me. In the press release [ctia.org] , they call the system "a newly-developed rating system that six mobile application storefronts will voluntarily support as part of their application submission (or onboarding) process" (emphasis mine). That "onboarding" word is something I don't like.

Re:Couldn't they just use the same ESRB system? (1)

BradleyUffner (103496) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225394)

If this is just an application of the same ESRB ratings to mobile games (which is suggested with "The CTIA Mobile Application Rating System with ESRB will utilize the well-known and trusted age rating icons that ESRB assigns to computer and video games to provide parents and consumers reliable information about the age-appropriateness of applications." in the press release), then this doesn't warrant a story, as smartphones and their ilk are computers (however hobbled by their small form and bad service providers).

If they'll instead use a new set of rating categories or descriptors, then it's wasted effort, as they could've just applied the ESRB ones to these games since they're becoming more and more like computer and console games (partly because, well, smartphones are computers). In this case, it not only doesn't warrant a story but does warrant a point-and-laugh for the repetitive noobs they are.

Also, slapping A Capitalized Slogan(R) in front of your name more than once per page, as if to be part of it, is highly loathsome and annoying; and I want to physically harm whoever made "onboard" a verb.

I think they want to cover things like how data is collected and other privacy things that the ESRB doesn't cover.

Re:Couldn't they just use the same ESRB system? (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226528)

The point is that mobile games aren't currently rated with ESRB ratings, which means that ESRB isn't making money off the submissions process ($800 for a small game, $4,000 for a large game).

Basically ESRB is pissed they're not making bank on this trend, and they'd like the app store owners (Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, RIM) to require ratings for games before the game is available for sale.

ESRB Costs $800/$4000 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225242)

According to Wikipedia, to have a game evaluated for ESRB costs $800 to $4,000.

And a large share of mobile phone games are free and many are made by small-time developers or even individuals.

I think the ESRB is looking to be a solution to a problem that does not exist, at least for the Apple App Store. I cannot speak for Android.

So... why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38225326)

I've not understood the objection here. Why are people against the ESRB? It's just metadata. If you don't want to use it, ignore it.

Or do they charge for the rating or something?

it is pretty silly to have special logos for "mobile apps".

Re:So... why not? (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38225414)

I don't think they are, I think it's fantastic that an industry can have it's own content ratings system. It is the one thing that the MPAA is good for, keeping the government out of the movie theaters. If anything, there's a complaint it's expensive, but TFA is about solving this very problem by letting publishers fill out a detailed questionnaire instead of submitting demos and clips for review.

Re:So... why not? (1)

bberens (965711) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226130)

If you think the MPAA ratings are good I highly recommend you watch the movie "This Film Is Not Yet Rated." The ratings are not so much a "help parents make informed decisions about movies" tool as it is a tool to protect the oligopoly in the movie industry.

Re:So... why not? (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 2 years ago | (#38248178)

I'm not making the claim the MPAA is competent, or even that it's easy to get a rating or break into the industry... Just that it's better than the alternative of government controls on movie theaters like we see in other countries, and TFA is about solving some of the same problems that exist in the game industry.

Re:So... why not? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38226832)

Why are people against the ESRB? It's just metadata. If you don't want to use it, ignore it.

Or do they charge for the rating or something?

Yes they do. This piece of metadata can become cost-prohibitive for an individual developer or 2-man family business working on its first title. See Anonymous Coward's comment right before yours [slashdot.org] .

Re:So... why not? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227216)

$800 is hardly going to break the bank of someone trying to sell a game. If it does, the bank was going to break anyway.

This is true of any startup (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227636)

If it does, the bank was going to break anyway.

This is true of any startup: seed capital is hard to come by especially while the team are trying to build their portfolio from scratch.

Re:This is true of any startup (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229186)

So get a job with someone else to build up your portfolio, you don't know what an apprentice is don't you?

Life isn't easy, it takes effort. $800 in the US (which is where the ESRB matters) is 2 weeks pay at McDonalds. Thats easily attainable, and hardly an extreme amount of effort for someone trying to start their own business.

Spoiled brat much?

Re:This is true of any startup (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229252)

So get a job with someone else to build up your portfolio, you don't know what an apprentice is don't you?

Not having any relatives living near a suitable master makes things much more difficult.

Re:This is true of any startup (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 2 years ago | (#38230040)

Of course then you have those little things like rent (because some of us don't live in our mom's basement), bills, food, ect. And if you're making $800 in two weeks at McDonalds then you aren't a standard worker, you're probably manger. (http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Employer=McDonald's_Corporation/Hourly_Rate)

As a basic fast food worker, average pay, according to the website above, is $7.56. Multiply by the standard hours in a working week (40) and you get $604.80. And that's assuming they keep you on full time. I would guess (don't know for sure since I've never worked in a fast food place) that they keep workers under 32 hours a week so they don't have to pay benefits. So it's probably more like $468.72 for two weeks ($756*31*2). So yes, if every single expense is taken care of for them, an average McDonalds worker can probably afford an ESRB rating after working a month. But I would imagine that is generally not the case for most people who develop apps.

Re:So... why not? (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 2 years ago | (#38227020)

The ESRB is an especially poor rating system, exemplified by its use of the word "mature" in the ratings themselves. This renders it too easily used as a marketing term for vendors looking to market some of the most puerile content imaginable to the segments of the population least able to handle it, all by using the word "mature" to imply that the game will make them feel like men. Indeed, there are entire companies that depend on this business model: witness Rockstar.

When and if the ESRB removes marketing terms from its ratings, they may deserve to be taken seriously. Certainly not until then.

Re:So... why not? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38229990)

Why are people against the ESRB? It's just metadata. If you don't want to use it, ignore it.

The problem is when retailers use that metadata to keep things out of their shop and away from their devices, as then it becomes simply a censorship method. In the mobile space the ESRB might not yet have that power, but on game console it has, getting an AO rating means your game becomes unpublishable. Of course Apple is censoring what you can run anyway, even without the ESRB, so the damage is already done there and the ESRB might not be able to do additional harm.

Turn off to Young Adults (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38229266)

Apple and Google won't support a rating system because that would turn off their core fanatics, teens to 30 somethings that have a lot of money because they don't have kids. This rating system doesn't do anything for their core customers.

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