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ESRB Outlines Publisher Fines

Zonk posted about 8 years ago | from the in-the-doghouse dept.

38

1up reports that the ESRB has laid out what publishers can expect if they step out of line regarding game content. From the article: "Vance says the ESRB has the power to enforce up to $1 million in monetary fines for the 'most egregious offenses,' and could potentially suspend publisher's access to the ratings system. Most retailers will not carry games without a rating. Further corrective actions could include pulling advertising until content's corrected, stickered packaging, product recalls and 'other steps the publisher must take.'"

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38 comments

The fines are (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | about 8 years ago | (#15544171)

For every game that nets 10,000,000.00 sales revenue and includes "Hot Coffee": Fine - one time fee - 10,000.00 dollars.
For every game that nets 100,000,000 sales revenue and includes "Hot Coffee": Fine - one time fee - 100,000.00 dollars.

And for good measure,

For every game that even includes the words "Hot Coffee" - 5,000.00. Any game that has the word "Hot" in the same scene as the word "Coffee" - 5000.00

Re:The fines are (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15551502)

the whole fucking arguemnt is pointless anyway, 'hot coffee' was a fan mod, holdinga game company responce for soemething like that is like holding your local home and harden center resposible cause some college kids turned some lawn fertalizer into a homemade bomb.

Personal responsibility spins in its grave (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15544282)

I don't remember moving to gestapo Germany. I thought a Republican government is all about a less intrusive government. Someone also needs to slap the parents across the face and stop them from buying these games for their kids if they disagree with the content.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | about 8 years ago | (#15544444)

Sadly, the Reagan Republican movement, which stressed smaller government, died with Reagan.

And to those who are just looking for an excuse to spout anti-Republican diatribes, don't bother. We are all aware that Slashdot is a bastion of liberalism who loves nothing more than a good Republican bashing, but nowadays there is really nothing that separates the two parties. They're all the same except for their extremist fringes. The point that I'm making is that the Republicans that are inside of the Washington beltway are no longer Republicans except in name. Sadly, I don't know what they are anymore because they've all abandoned the principles that should be guiding the Republican party. Mod me off-topic. I don't care. That doesn't make what I've said any less true.

Someone also needs to slap the parents across the face and stop them from buying these games for their kids if they disagree with the content.

That, however, is sickeningly true. You need to be modded +1 If Only We Could for that line.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

SydShamino (547793) | about 8 years ago | (#15544831)

Reagan Republicans being true Republicans? What about Lincoln Republicans?

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | about 8 years ago | (#15545013)

I'll grant you that. Regardless, Reagan was very much anti-big government. He bashed the notion of bigger government and warned of the problems associated with bigger government, such as interference in areas where they don't belong and the devaluing of individual freedoms, very often. That's primarily what I was referring to because the current administration doesn't give a flying fsck about individual freedoms. I voted for Dr. Jekyl not realizing until too late that Mr. Hyde was just beneath the surface. Bastard.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#15545139)

Sadly, the Reagan Republican movement, which stressed smaller government, died with Reagan.


Given the huge expansion of the government under Reagan, there is little evidence it was anything but a rhetorical trick to win votes without any substance even when he was alive and even in office.

And to those who are just looking for an excuse to spout anti-Republican diatribes, don't bother. We are all aware that Slashdot is a bastion of liberalism who loves nothing more than a good Republican bashing, but nowadays there is really nothing that separates the two parties.


Oh, bull. There is quite a bit that separates the two parties. It may not be on issues that matter to you, but then with only two groups, you only get one axis of variation, so its not surprising that that axis may not be the most important one to quite a few voters. This is, really, nothing new -- the US has had this problem for most of its existence, more sharply though in the era of mass communications as the parties became truly national, and thus the positions (or at least the image) of each were less adapted to the various states and localities.

The point that I'm making is that the Republicans that are inside of the Washington beltway are no longer Republicans except in name.


Insofar as "Republican" to you seems to mean "small government adherent", there wasn't any time when that wasn't true, your romanticized illusions about the Reagan era aside.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

mcvos (645701) | about 8 years ago | (#15547456)

And to those who are just looking for an excuse to spout anti-Republican diatribes, don't bother. We are all aware that Slashdot is a bastion of liberalism who loves nothing more than a good Republican bashing, but nowadays there is really nothing that separates the two parties. They're all the same except for their extremist fringes.
The difference is that in the Republican party, the extremist fringe is in charge.

But other than that, I agree; there's not much difference. US politics seems to be locked down by a ruling elite that's just interested in power, and is controlling both parties. And the way the system works, new parties don't stand a chance of being elected.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15546699)

Gestapo? Nope, Germany has the USK [wikipedia.org] and BPjM [wikipedia.org] for restricting minors' access to violent videogames (there are laws for all media but the USK only covers videogames). No secrecy necessary. The BPjM can order a ban on advertising (which includes shelf space) in venues accessible to minors but only if the USK refused to rate a game. The ratings are legally binding, unrated means 18+ and selling a game to a minor he isn't cleared for can end with two years of jailtime.

I'm both supporting this and rejecting any laws regarding the ESRB out of two reasons:
1. The German constitution has a special restriction on free speech to enable youth protection. Since the US contitution does not have such a restriction it is unconstitutional to ban selling a game to minors there. If the govt wants to protect the children they have to change the first amendment and I have this vague feeling that the populace values unrestricted free speech higher than youth protection.
2. In Germany the ratings for all media are legally binding and the BPjM can index any form of media, including books and complete bans can apply to any form of media. Videogames aren't being singled out.

Maybe a third would be the lower resistance to rate a game 18+ leading to retailers carrying games rated 18 without questions. Most don't carry indexed games but that's mostly becauee it's not economically viable to sell games noone can know you have.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15546710)

Ack, the BPjM link doesn't work on Slashdot. No way to work around that so you have to click the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien link in the USK article.

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

Chazmyrr (145612) | about 8 years ago | (#15547507)

The first amendment doesn't apply. The developer and publisher exercised their free speech by developing and publishing the game. The cashier at the store is not speaking by selling the game. The purchaser is not speaking by buying the game. The first amendment does not guarantee the right of any individual to listen to any speech.

In the US video games are being singled out because rules are already in place for other forms of media. Minors can not buy adult content in other forms, why do you feel they should be allowed to buy it in video games?

Re:Personal responsibility spins in its grave (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15549095)

Courts have found sales restrictions enforced by the government to be a violation of free speech. There is no law that prevents a minor from seeing or buying a movie he's too young for, all enforcement of that is voluntary (how else do you explain "unrated" DVDs?). If the government is getting between the speaker and the intended listener without the listener or the speaker desiring such measures (i.e. no intrusion on secret information or stuff like that) that's a restriction of free speech. Preventing people from hearing what you say is no different from stopping you from saying things in first place. Should the govt be able to confiscate all copies of a book you intend to ship out because they don't like what you say? Because once the book is being copied the original act of writing is over and by your logic you'd have execides your free speech already and the govt can censor as it pleases.

Server Melted (1)

Zephiria (941257) | about 8 years ago | (#15544296)

Anyone have the cache or perhaps a copy of the content?

This is what I despise about ratings boards. (2, Insightful)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | about 8 years ago | (#15544332)

Vance says the ESRB has the power to enforce up to $1 million in monetary fines for the 'most egregious offenses,'

I really hate that non-government entities have the power to place massive fines. Really. The ESRB is a voluntary rating system. No game company is required by any law that I'm aware of to submit their games to any ratings system. Ah, but then the game company is given bad public relations if they don't submit because of the likelihood of extremist, "pro-family" organizations and activist lawmakers like Tompson (and possibly the ESRB itself) accusing them of having something to hide even they have nothing to hide but don't want to submit to a rating on principle.

The ESRB is now no different than the MPAA. No legal bindings; a completely voluntary system. But if you don't submit your material for ratings you risk getting banned by the outlets that you would depend on for selling your products. And of course by submitting your material you agree to be subjected to any fines that the ratings boards feels it can place upon you.

The ESRB is starting to join the RIAA and MPAA in their mob-like demeanor. {Don Corleone voice} You either submit your material for us to place our beloved rating or else you won't work again in this town. This is an offer that you really can't refuse. {/voice}

*sigh* Money and power. Ba-a-a-a-d combination. Sadly, the MPAA, RIAA, and now ESRB have both.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#15544445)

I don't agree. I think that if they choose to submit a game for rating, that they should be subject to the rules of the organization. The game publishers have been supporting the rise of the megalithic retailers all along, down to actually making custom versions of games for wal-mart. They created the force that gave the ESRB power.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | about 8 years ago | (#15544464)

I'll grant you that, but they still should not be punished by having their market potential slashed if they don't submit, and you know that they will. If anything, they should be given PR credit for submitting, but they should not be punished for not submitting, and that's just around the corner, I'm sure, if it's not already here.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#15545033)

I'll grant you that, but they still should not be punished by having their market potential slashed if they don't submit, and you know that they will.

Why not? If I make my bed, I'm expected to lie in it.

Allowing a ratings board to exist in the first place, and giving it power by submitting to it then, was the first step in legislation making it mandatory.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

bky1701 (979071) | about 8 years ago | (#15546771)

I agree, but you are basically saying all game companies and players should pay the cost of a few mega-companies like EA. WE didn't make this bed, but we are being forced to lie in it.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

Chazmyrr (145612) | about 8 years ago | (#15547489)

No. The ratings board is an attempt to stave off legislation by showing that industry can regulate itself.

Recent events have demonstrated that the industry has not been successful. Developers continue to include content on the shipping media that is not disclosed to the rating board. Retailers do not enforce the ratings given by the board.

The movie industry was only successful at self regulation after the studios forced theaters to comply. We'll see how well it works for video games

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

creimer (824291) | about 8 years ago | (#15544632)

With Wal-Mart, the game industry had no choice but to reduce packaging size and create special versions if they wanted to sell to a big slice of the retail pie. Since the ESRB doubled their submission fees a few years ago, I wouldn't be surpised if the smaller publishers don't play ball with th ESRB. The larger publisher will continue to do so as not to offend Wal-Mart and/or their shareholders. It's an interesting situation.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (2, Informative)

scaryjohn (120394) | about 8 years ago | (#15545153)

I really hate that non-government entities have the power to place massive fines. Really. The ESRB is a voluntary rating system. No game company is required by any law that I'm aware of to submit their games to any ratings system. Ah, but then the game company is given bad public relations if they don't submit because of the likelihood of extremist, "pro-family" organizations and activist lawmakers like Tompson (and possibly the ESRB itself) accusing them of having something to hide even they have nothing to hide but don't want to submit to a rating on principle.
The ESRB is now no different than the MPAA. No legal bindings; a completely voluntary system. But if you don't submit your material for ratings you risk getting banned by the outlets that you would depend on for selling your products. And of course by submitting your material you agree to be subjected to any fines that the ratings boards feels it can place upon you.

If the ESRB were a consumer group instead of a trade group, and somebody misrepresented the content of their games, they'd have to take the software publisher to court on negligent misrepresentation. Despite the name, the fine is really liquidated damages; it says, "your subverting the rating system hurt our public credibility this much, and you agreed in advance to pay us back." The $1M cap means the fines never get so high that a publisher has an incentive to take ESRB to court and risk derailing the entire system one way or another.

And I don't know of anybody (wholesaler, retailer, et c.) who would blackball an entire publisher because they didn't submit one game for ratings. Just like movies, that one edgy title has to find its own way, but the next mainstream release can still be rated and distributed in mainstream channels.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15545775)

"I really hate that non-government entities have the power to place massive fines."

Would you rather have the ESRB get the FTC involved? True regulation? Because that's what would happen if the industry did not adequately self-police.
I really don't think any publisher wants FTC involvement.

"extremist, "pro-family"

Your argument just went out the window with that one.
The real extremists wouldn't allow the stuff on the market in the first place.

"accusing them of having something to hide even they have nothing to hide but don't want to submit to a rating on principle. "

Would we be in this position if Rockstar hadn't lied in their first public statement about the GTA incident?

"The ESRB is now no different than the MPAA."

And yet the MPAA no longer has the Hayes code.

Re:This is what I despise about ratings boards. (1)

sciencecneisc (980820) | about 8 years ago | (#15547371)

Voluntary regulation, heavy fines or not, is voluntary. Easily or not, you can band together and sell games as downloads or Netflix-style rentals. Publishers should expect to do that from the start because in America this discrimination against certain content by MPAA/RIAA etc. and because of our public's crazy standards, the retailers themselves is bound to happen inevitably ruining creative opportunities for those who aren't prepared to use different sales channels.

One dimensional (1)

alfs boner (963844) | about 8 years ago | (#15544412)

Am I the only one that thinks the purely one dimensional rating systems used by games and movies are a bit two simplistic to make a good decision on?

Admittedly these days the reasons for getting a rating are usually given and this does help alot, but simply rating in a few more categories makes sense to me.

As an aside it does seem a bit absurd that a topless woman can raise the rating of a game/movie faster than a body count can. I just find it a sad commentary on society that violence is more acceptable than nudity.

Re:One dimensional (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 8 years ago | (#15544465)

Am I the only one that thinks the purely one dimensional rating systems used by games and movies are a bit two simplistic to make a good decision on?

Yes. A two-dimensional system is absolutely needed. Personally I would like to see absolute metrics used to rate games in various categories. Items like maximum possible number of bloody deaths would go into the mix, as would maximum number of times to hear the word "fuck" (or similar) in the dialogue, etc etc.

Makes total sense to me, because (if I even had kids) I'd rather they see bouncing boobies on screen than decapitations and the like. It's hard to say which influence parents should fear more, however, in a world in which a grade schooler can get expelled for slapping another one's ass when neither one is even old enough to understand the relevance, or where a student can be suspended from school for making a "gun" with their hand (and loaded with a fully armed fingernail!)

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15545383)

No. I don't agree. On the surface you see a big simplistic letter. ("E", "T", "M", etc) but if you would BOTHER to look underneath the letter it spells out WHY it got the rating. It will list things like "comic mischief", "explicit violence", "mature themes", etc..........

What gives them the right to do that? (1)

brett42 (79648) | about 8 years ago | (#15544416)

I looked through 3 or 4 other versions of this article via google news, and I couldn't find the original press release, but I couldn't find anything mention of why gaming companies would be forced to give large sums of money to an independant, voluntary ratings board. One article [geek.com] mentioned the FTC in the same paragraph, but why would the ESRB have that kind of enforcement power?

I can only see two possibilities, neither of which makes sense. Some contract the ESRB makes companies sign has a "we agree to give you millions of dollars whenever you say so" clause in it, or the ESRB thinks its little label is worth enough that it can extort the money out of them. For companies that make games that would end up being 'M' anyway, wouldn't they be able to just stick their own warnings on the box instead?

Re:What gives them the right to do that? (1)

Xylaan (795464) | about 8 years ago | (#15544491)

The ESRB's ability to fine people will probably be bound as part of the agreement that occurs when you submit a game for review. Alternitavely, if the game later gets fined, and for some reason they don't feel they have to pay, the ESRB can revoke their right to use the ESRB rating symbols (which are trademarked).

The real reason that the ESRB has to do this is because they are afraid that bad publisher decisions will result in the public losing faith in the ESRB. That's why they're trying to show that they will enforce their decisions, through fines and possible revokation of the right to use the ESRB system.

For the record, the furor over Hot Coffee was rediculous and perpetrated by people who don't know better. However, that's not how a lot of the public feels about it, and hence, the ESRB has to react to the public's opinion.

Re:What gives them the right to do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15545862)

"The real reason that the ESRB has to do this is because they are afraid that bad publisher decisions will result in the public losing faith in the ESRB."

Yep, and that's where the FTC gets involved -- if the public feels the ratings system is inaccurate, false advertising, etc. The ESRB is demonstrating they can self-police the industry so that the FTC, etc. doesn't have to regulate it.

"For the record, the furor over Hot Coffee was rediculous and perpetrated by people who don't know better. However, that's not how a lot of the public feels about it, and hence, the ESRB has to react to the public's opinion."

If you look at the content, yeah I agree with you, it's a M game and the extra content wasn't anything worse than what already was there.

I think some of the other sticking points were:
a) the content was hidden, not disclosed to the board
b) Rockstar's handing of the whole thing:
"Absolutely not ours, that's someone else's work, we're shocked...oh, wait, I guess it was our fault." Doesn't exactly inspire trust.

I think it is good and will work. (1)

schoolsucks (570755) | about 8 years ago | (#15544474)

Games these days are out of hand. The show nudity, all kinds of violence, and lewd behaviour. Just look at the Grand Theft Auto series. Any good parent would want to protect their children from these social ills. I think this is a good first step in bringing responsibility to game publishers. We need things like these to ensure that family values stay intact.

Re:I think it is good and will work. (1)

creimer (824291) | about 8 years ago | (#15544711)

Look at the movie "Grandma's Boy", for example. Play video games and become a game tester, the next thing you're doing is drinking booze, sucking tits, smoking pot and sleeping with old ladies. It's no wonder stuff like "Hot Coffee" gets into games. Bad video game industry... bad, bad, bad.

NOTE: In the six years that I worked in the video game industry, booze drinking by the PR girl at an E3 party was probably the worse offense I ever saw (on video since bad things happen at E3). I think I missed everything else. :P

Re:I think it is good and will work. (1)

Swordsmanus (921213) | about 8 years ago | (#15545558)

Never mind movies, TV, books, magazines, music/music videos, nor their respective rating systems, nor the rating system already in place for videogames. Or the parent's responsibility to supervise their own children!

Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15544737)

Don't rate with the ESRB.

The ESRB is not on the side of game companies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15544744)

I've dealt with the ESRB and it has left a bad taste in my mouth.

They are very authoritarian and heavy-handed when they find that you have not properly complied with their guidelines. They mention that you will face fines or legal action in their first communication with you.

Below is the clause in their "Terms and Conditions Agreement" that grants this "extortion":


Company acknowledges that Company's
failure to disclose pertinent content may result in the
ESRB's issuance of a Rating that does not accurately
reflect the content of the final Product. Such a Rating
will be null and void, and Company will be
unauthorized to use such Rating, and may infringe
upon the ESRB's intellectual property in connection
with such Rating. Failure to disclose pertinent content,
or failure to comply with the ESRB Rules and ARC
Documents, may result in the imposition of sanctions
by the ESRB pursuant to the Enforcement
Summary, including but not limited to, the revocation
of the Rating, recall of the Product, relabeling of the
Product, suspension of rating services, the payment
of fines and the commencement of litigation by the
ESRB (all of which may be imposed or initiated
without refund to Company of any submission fees).


For more details and the full agreement, log into esrb.org with the login "pub" and the password "4321"

Make their own ratings board? (1)

st0rmshad0w (412661) | about 8 years ago | (#15544811)

So what's to stop the game developers from forming another "independant" ratings board and simply using THEM instead?

Parents barely read the box anyway.

And the money goes where exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15546380)

I'm assuming they just keep it, is that right?

1) Set up company that does nothing but make rules
2) Fine other companies that break your rules
3) Profit!

Re:And the money goes where exactly? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | about 8 years ago | (#15546735)

This is a voluntary certification. I'm sure this isn' the only agency giving those out. The fines are in case someone misrepresents his product in order to receive a certification the good is not suitable for. If you wanted a 100% organic certification you should be liable if you managed to hide those ingredients brewed in a chem lab in order to wrongfully acquire the certification.

The fix for this is simple... (1)

Criterion (51515) | about 8 years ago | (#15547911)

ALL game companies need to opt-out of the ratings race. When no games are rated, then the retailers who won't put up non-rated games will have no choice if they want to sell games. This whole system need a big reboot.
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