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Study Finds That 'M'-Rated Games Sell Best

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the m-is-for-mass-market-right dept.

Games 107

Gamasutra is reporting on information from a new research firm called Electronic Entertainment Design and Research, which has recently released a number of papers looking into trends in the gaming industry. One (perhaps surprising) finding: M-rated titles sell better than any other rating group. "The study, titled 'Console Intelligence Brief 2007' examines the PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 since each consoles' release through June 1, 2007, and comprises some 219 retail and 187 downloadable games made available on the new platforms, examined by genre, ESRB rating, gross sales in the United States, MetaCritic scores, online functionalities, multiplayer capability and other core game features. Among the sample results made available, the study found that critics' favorite list and the blockbuster charts have a lot in common, with highly-rated titles selling up to five times better than titles with lower scoring reviews. Despite online connectivity being a marketing cornerstone for all new consoles, the study concluded that 45 percent of retail games are not utilizing it in any way -- 98 percent of Nintendo Wii games have no online functionality at all."

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107 comments

There is a good reason. (1, Troll)

raventh1 (581261) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554081)

Almost all AAA titles are M.

The best games are M.

Re:There is a good reason. (2, Informative)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554807)

I'm not quite sure that I completely agree with your assessment that "The best games are M." As an example, are games that are rated E or T not capable of being considered as the best? Games such as The Sims, Civilization, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, etc. are not rated M, but are considered among some of the best games of all time. If you look at IGN's Top 100 games list [ign.com] I don't think there are any games in the top 10 that would be rated as Mature. The first M-rated game I could find on the list was Metal Gear Solid which was ranked #19.

It could be possible that you enjoy FPS games, which are generally given a mature rating because they involve death and blood in most cases. It happens that the genre you prefer happens to be tagged as Mature in a vast majority of cases. An interesting question springs to mind though. If you were given an FPS game featuring the best controls, storyline, gameplay, multiplayer, graphics, and game balance (in your opinion) would it still be good if it didn't have enough violence (or other content) to warrent an M rating? If you don't enjoy FPS games, then simply apply the question to a different genre.

Re:There is a good reason. (3, Insightful)

CogDissident (951207) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555721)

I would like to note, in IGN's top 100 games, all of them are old. Infact, the only game in their top 20 that was made after the year 2000 is Rome: Total War, which is an M rated game.

In the 20-30 range, all of the ones made in 2000 or later are M rated games, except burnout 3.

Re:There is a good reason. (2, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556915)

Perhaps this highlights the toll the ESRB has taken on the gaming universe.

I recently played through Tomb Raider Anniversary with the commentary on. I had forgotten that, in the original Tomb Raider, if Lara would fall atop spikes she would be impaled upon them. It wasn't until the commentary mentioned that they weren't allowed to do it in the remake and keep the rating they needed for the target audience.

Developers of M games don't have their hands tied like those targeting younger audiences. Then again, the lack of games after 2000 making it above #19 is perhaps developers using the M as an excuse to add shock-value violence and sex in substitution for, not in addition to, great game play.

Exploitation is nothing new to any entertainment industry, I suppose.

Re:There is a good reason. (2, Informative)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557087)

Does a game being old somehow preclude it from being a great game or one of the best of all time? I'll agree that a bit of nostalgia may have crept into IGN's list, mostly because Super Mario Bros. is rated as the number one game of all time (I contend that Super Mario Bros. 3 is a superior game, but that's only my opinion.) but many other games have legitimate reasons for being there. Super Metroid and Legent of Zelda: OOT are regarded as the best games in their series by many and as the best game of their type by many as well. I think there's a tendency for younger games to overlook many of these games or not appreciate them today. Bioshock has been lauded as an excellent FPS (which I won't argue with much) but does it deserve to be in the top 10 of all time? I'd suggest watching this review [escapistmagazine.com] that actually takes a critical look at the game and doesn't spend the majority of the reivew lavashing praise on it.

As a personal example, I find Civilization II to be one of the most brilliant games ever designed. The fact that I can still sink hours of my life at a time into the game when it has to compete with the current generation of games speaks something of its excellence. It's not perfect, but there's not much I would change about the game if I could. There are some games like this that can't be improved upon in their gameplay aspect and updating the graphics only goes so far to enhance the experience. A game like Civilization II doesn't need new pretty graphics or anything that would normally cause a game to receive a 'mature' rating in order to be great.

It's also disingenuous to suggest that there weren't any mature games being made before than either. Metal Gear Solid received an M-rating almost a decade ago. There have also been mature themed games all the way back in the Atari [gametrailers.com] generation. A game doesn't need to have an M rating in order to do well and the concept of Mature games isn't something new either. I only bring this up, because I feel that someone would likely use it as a rebuttle.

I'm not trying to say that any of the M rated games on the list are bad either, but with the exception of Half-Life it's hard to argue that any of them should be moved significantly up the list when the games placed in front of them are some of the pinacles of gaming. Some of these games are pushing the limits of the technology we have today, but some of the other games were also pushing those limits over a decade ago. Perhaps it's possible that our culture is becoming more accepting of mature themes in video games and that's why we're seeing more of them, but adding mature themes to a game just for the sake of having them there won't make a game good.

Re:There is a good reason. (1)

Gulthek (12570) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557797)

Does a game being old somehow preclude it from being a great game or one of the best of all time?

No, but it does preclude it from having an 'M' rating since many were made before the ESRB even existed.

Re:There is a good reason. (1)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561827)

The ESRB was established in 1994. Only covers about 40% of games on IGN's list were released before that time. Of these, how many, if rated today would receive a Mature rating from the ESRB? Some can be easily removed from speculation since they've been rereleased on the Wii virtual console and have thus been subjected to evaluation by the ESRB. Only a small few (such as Doom) would likely receive an M rating, although it's possible that by today's standards they would receive a T rating.

I think we're just splitting hairs at this point.

Re:There is a good reason. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20557951)

someone would likely use it as a rebuttle
Just a friendly correction, you probably meant rebuttal [wikipedia.org] :)

Re:There is a good reason. (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558409)

Rome is a Teen rated game, not M rated (look at the cover displayed). I imagine if the battles were bloody that would change, but they're not (just corpse ridden).

Few of the best selling games of all time [wikipedia.org] are M rated, and few of those are even on that list of top 100 games - probably because most good sellers appeal to casual gamers - games like Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Tetris, Pokemon Red, Blue and Green, the Sims, etc. GTA is the only real franchise that breaks that trend.

What this says to me is kid oriented games will either be huge successes or huge flops, but Mature oriented games will rarely be either.

No shit? (-1, Flamebait)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554145)

All pimply teenagers that want to be cool and need the latest gore and sex-laden game will buy those....

Re:No shit? (4, Informative)

j.sanchez1 (1030764) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554311)

All pimply teenagers that want to be cool and need the latest gore and sex-laden game will buy those....

Are we still really propagating the falsehood that most gamers are "pimply teenagers"?

The gamer demographic is expanding beyond its core young male audience to include more women and older adults, and video games in general are becoming far more pervasive as the medium approaches mass market status, according to a Benchmark study released Thursday by Nielsen Entertainment's Interactive Group.

The results of the study may go along way toward diminishing the gamer geek stereotype. Among the more eye-opening statistics: nearly 40 percent of gamers are female, and nearly a quarter of gamers are over the age of 40.

http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/news/recent_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000873991 [mediaweek.com]

Re:No shit? (2, Insightful)

This_Is_My_Happening (1151393) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556827)

I'd like to point out that the gp said that (paraphrasing)

All All pimply teenagers want gore and sex-laden games
Which I can somewhat agree with (but not entirely). What he did not say was

All people who want gore and sex-laden games are pimply teenagers
Which is what you look like you are addressing. A implies B is not equivalent to B implies A.

Re:No shit? (2, Insightful)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554603)

I think that there's also the "Saving Private Ryan" effect at work. It's easier to write a profound tale when you're not chained to a rating. Flipping through my games collection reveals titles like The Longest Journey, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, and Fahrenheit, which aren't gore-fests at all, but which also aren't afraid to disturb the viewer for the sake of a compelling story.

Re:No shit? (1)

MarkAyen (726688) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558915)

Exactly. There is a causality fallacy at work here. M-rated games don't sell the best because they're M-rated (although that will be the conclusion drawn by the hack developers that read this study). They sell the best because the developers of those games said, "fuck it, I'm going to make the game I want to make and the ratings be damned." Not surprisingly, many games made that way turn out to be M-rated by the ESRB since the ESRB ratings give any game in the very least way controversial an M (or AO) rating.

Re:No shit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20563881)

Fahrenheit, ugh. Talk about an overrated game. The creators were so green on the idea of video games, they got excited about the "innovative" combination of twenty year old interactive fiction mechanics with button mashing and 3-D graffix! And they were so drunk on this "innovation" they completely failed to write a cohesive plot. Hardly the Saving Private Ryan of video games.

Re:No shit? (1)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554631)

Or just maybe video games are popular due to their escape from reality, and the escape is more interesting in a violet or sexual environment?

I don't think an "Office Space" game where you sit in a cube all day doing Y2K conversions would sell well.

Re:No shit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20563631)

Nah, I don't think purple wallpaper necessarily makes a game more fun.

Surprising? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20554171)

One (perhaps surprising) finding: M-rated titles sell better than any other rating group.
If by "surprising" you mean "completely and totally expected by anyone with a brain cell" then I agree completely.

A Sweet rating. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20554237)

Of course a M-arshmellow rated game would sell better than say a pansy, wimp, or Mamma's boy rated game.

Of course they do (3, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554241)

Most gamers are in the demographic that m-rated games appeal to...

And yet... (5, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555041)

This would clearly explain why the best-selling games of all time are franchises like The Sims, Pokemon, Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy, and Grand Theft Auto...

Except that only one of those series is "M." Hmmm. Having the highest average gross sales (per the article instead of the article's title) is apparently not the same as "selling best." In fact, the best-selling games are consistently not M-rated, the way the best-selling movies are disproportionately rated "G" or "PG" and yet on average G-rated movies do not do nearly well as PG-13 or R movies.

The point is not that M-rated games sell better, it's that M-rated games are a good way to hedge your bets. If you get a true "E for Everyone" blockbuster, you will blow most M-rated sales figures out of the water. But if you fail, you will fail spectacularly. Whereas, cranking out another FPS will likely turn a modest profit even if it isn't a great game. I have heard similar things said about R-rated movies; enough adults are just "looking for something to see" that a cheaply-produced R movie might be profitable while a badly produced children's movie will not attract any viewers at all.

Re:And yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20557563)

You're implying that there are children's movies that aren't badly produced? Movies that are targeted to both adults and children seem to generally do well and get better production values (see Pixar). Kids-only products are almost without fail total garbage.

Re:And yet... (1)

bubzor888 (1138953) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560469)

From the article...

Finally, the study has also found that the Nintendo Wii has seen more than twice the number of retail and downloadable game titles than either the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 in the first 7 months after each platform's launch.

...And how many games on the Wii are rated M? None.
Interesting...

Re:Of course they do (2, Insightful)

LehiNephi (695428) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556015)

It's also important to keep a few things in mind:
--Violent games were around long before the ESRB ratings
--FPS's are, and have been for a while, the most commonly-produced type of game. Which means that, all other things being equal, more big hits will be FPS's
--The games that are the best-funded and best-hyped (aside from the more recent phenomenon of MMORPGs) are FPS's
--New graphics technology tends to first appear in FPSes
--What red-blooded 16-30-year-old male wouldn't like to run around, blowing everything to smithereens, with no consequences?

I don't think that it's the violence/gore/sex alone that makes these games successful. I, personally, turn the blood and gore all the way to the minimum, and find that the game is no less enjoyable. Perhaps even more enjoyable, because of the boost in framerate. But the fact remains that these games are fun. They let you do something that you would never get to do in real life.

Try another gamble (4, Insightful)

Durrill (908003) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554301)

Perhaps the industry should open up a bit more to AO rated games. Maybe they'll be surprised as to the results. Video games are not a children only medium. If they came to the conclusion that parents should govern what games their children should play, then they'd be willing to market adult oriented media. Last I saw, the porn industry was still thriving.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

MoHaG (1002926) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554431)

....If they came to the conclusion that parents should govern what games their children should play, then they'd be willing to market adult oriented media....
And here in South Africa it is illegal to sell a game to someone aged under the game's age restriction. This should make it harder for children to (directly) obtain such games.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554467)

I think you're right that people would be willing to buy AO games (especially if they weren't _too_ porny, just a flash here and there), the problem is that lots of stores wouldn't sell them, and you would be locked out of the lucrative console market entirely.

Unfortunately, there is a catch-22 with AO games. Publishers know they won't be able to sell or advertise them much, so they're not willing to take much risk with them. This means AO games will be low budget affairs that will tend to suck. This reinforces the idea that AO games are sucky porno titles and the circle continues.

That said, the Japanese make tons of mostly identical porno games, but they tend to be very cheap to make (only a couple hundred drawings, a few thousand words of dialog, no gameplay to speak of) and can turn a profit with even very modest sales.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554583)

I think you're right that people would be willing to buy AO games (especially if they weren't _too_ porny, just a flash here and there), the problem is that lots of stores wouldn't sell them, and you would be locked out of the lucrative console market entirely.

So let them sell them to website retailers or even directly. The web allows many more gaming products to be promoted through word-of-mouth, blogs, gaming sites, etc.

This means AO games will be low budget affairs that will tend to suck. This reinforces the idea that AO games are sucky porno titles and the circle continues.

I wonder if there is a market for dual-rated games: sell one version that is rated T/M, and one version that is AO. That'll quickly decide if a game can be sold if it was AO.

That said, the Japanese make tons of mostly identical porno games, but they tend to be very cheap to make (only a couple hundred drawings, a few thousand words of dialog, no gameplay to speak of) and can turn a profit with even very modest sales.

I'm not familiar with the line drawn for AO games: is it just nudity, or can it be based on violence, swearing, or other "concerns"?

Re:Try another gamble (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555603)

They do it for music, I don't see why the same couldn't be done for video games. Granted there's not "Adult Only" music, and I remember buying albums with "Parental Advisory" stickers when I was 12, but that doesn't mean there isn't a market for both. Many parents buy the edited versions of pop albums for their kids.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558757)

They are rated by a panel people, just like how the Movie industry rates films. I don't think they give out names, but you can rest assured that the people on these panels are the ones that deem themselves to have "outstanding moral character" and see themselves as a bulwark against the flood of pron that would result if they just let people do what they want. In the US they tend to be much more concerned with nudity/sex than with violence. An occasional flash of nipple/butt here and there is acceptable on an M game (basically R), but sex tends to be a dealbreaker unless it's "sheets bouncing up and down for a few seconds".

Re:Try another gamble (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564091)

Ya know, I would really like to see the T/M rated scheme applied to games here. When reading the interviews about Lair on the PS3, it was revealed that the ESRB made them change a flying manta ray boss - a living organism - so that it blew up after you killed it, as opposed to bleeding, for the T rating. Erm, it's a living thing, folks, it's gonna bleed if you're hacking at it with a dragon! I'd be more interested in an M version of Lair, just so that last-minute (probably craptastic) ESRB nerfing hasn't been applied to it.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554735)

I think you're right that people would be willing to buy AO games (especially if they weren't _too_ porny, just a flash here and there), the problem is that lots of stores wouldn't sell them, and you would be locked out of the lucrative console market entirely.

I wonder though, why don't store sell them? I might understand Walmart's excuse for not selling adult stuff, but about game shops like EBGames and such? They're already asking for ID (or at least, they do over here) when they sell a M-rated game, why would it be any harder to ask for that same ID for AO-rated games?

Re:Try another gamble (1)

pieaholicx (1148705) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554835)

Along the same lines they could do what (at least my local) FYE does for adult movies. They place nice big markers in front of the movies with a big "A 18+" on them so you know what kids aren't allowed to be looking at. Then again this is also the same store which ended up with a copy of the Bible Black game...(one of those Japanese adult games mentioned above).

Re:Try another gamble (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558421)

I wonder though, why don't store sell them? I might understand Walmart's excuse for not selling adult stuff, but about game shops like EBGames and such? They're already asking for ID (or at least, they do over here) when they sell a M-rated game, why would it be any harder to ask for that same ID for AO-rated games?
Because if EBGames screws up, they get sued and fined for millions of dollars. Eventually, with thousands of stores and employees, they WILL screw up.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559389)

Because if EBGames screws up, they get sued and fined for millions of dollars. Eventually, with thousands of stores and employees, they WILL screw up.

And what keeps those very same employees from screwing up with M-rated titles?

Re:Try another gamble (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560395)

And what keeps those very same employees from screwing up with M-rated titles?
Nothing. They will screw up those M rated titles, and EBGames will get sued and fined millions of dollars.

But because M rated titles are such a large segment of gaming, the rewards are so huge that it will pay for the losses due to fines and lawsuits. EBGames makes so much money from selling M games that it easily is worth a few lawsuits once in a while.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564133)

Parents presently let their kids wander around EB freely, looking at titles and probably finding something to hassle them into buying.

Can you imagine them letting the kids run as freely or as often, if EB started carrying AO titles? Or, in the case of some parents, do you think they'd even let their kids be in the store? Especially if the AO titles aren't kept behind the counter, totally out of view. And if it's out of view entirely, the three mouth-breathers who read about it on the interweb and DIDN'T just decide to order it online, will be the only folks they get in asking about the AO title.

That having been said, this applies to pr0n only. If it's AO because of dismemberments with chainsaws, I don't think the parents would change their current behaviour.

Personal Computer, Politically Correct... (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557723)

Unfortunately, there is a catch-22 with AO games. Publishers know they won't be able to sell or advertise them much, so they're not willing to take much risk with them.
What if there was another category higher than AO that can move the stigma to the higher rating? How about PC for Prurient Content?

Re:Personal Computer, Politically Correct... (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558685)

Basically making AO the NC-17 of the game industry and making a new X rating? Look how well that worked for NC-17 movies.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

vimh42 (981236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555097)

Actually, let's forget about Porn for a moment. If there was a choice between buying an AO version Manhunt 2 or a MA version, which do you think gamers would buy? Honestly I'd like to see publishers would open up to AO ratings for games because it would allow developers to really push things creatively without worrying about the rating.

Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556251)

Perhaps with the notable exception of Caligula, have you ever....ever seen an adult movie with anything other than minimal plot development? Have you ever watched an adult movie and said to yourself, "Gee, I never expected it to end that way...."?

Let's be realistic, in the adult movie world, "character development" means "he needs a fluffer".

With this in mind, do you really imagine that AO rated games will be heralded for thier "clever design" and "stunning game play"? Do we really want to see the AO equivalent of a "First Person Shooter"?

Hmmmmmm?

Re:Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557165)

"Midnight Cowboy" was rated X when it came out.

More recently, Shortbus was really good, with a plot and tons of character devlopment.

Re:Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

TriezGamer (861238) | more than 6 years ago | (#20557779)

Let's be realistic, in the adult movie world, "character development" means "he needs a fluffer".


Only because that's how Americans WANT it. In Japan, 'eroge' (erotic games) are extremely popular, and run from plotless, pointless animated pornography to absolutely epic (and often well-written) storylines that occasionally have graphic sexuality, but take longer to read through than a full length novel.

It's not that a game like that COULDN'T be successful, but I suspect it would take a while for the American market to open up to it. Particularly because most guys are just looking for a 'quick fix', and playing through 4 hours of story narration before you get to see a nipple isn't what those guys are probably wanting. On the other hand, if you're genuinely interested in the story, and you don't live alone, you don't necessarily know that you'll be alone in 4 hours, when suddenly porn pops up.

Re:Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20561753)

Only because that's how Americans WANT it. In Japan, 'eroge' (erotic games) are extremely popular, and run from plotless, pointless animated pornography to absolutely epic (and often well-written) storylines that occasionally have graphic sexuality, but take longer to read through than a full length novel.
Obviously, Japanese men take a lot longer to get it up.

Re:Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

Johnny5000 (451029) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558605)

Perhaps with the notable exception of Caligula, have you ever....ever seen an adult movie with anything other than minimal plot development? Have you ever watched an adult movie and said to yourself, "Gee, I never expected it to end that way...."?

Depends on what you consider to be an adult movie.

If you're just talking about porn, then no.
If you're including movies aimed at adults, even if you're not counting the rated-R and only including NC-17, then yes, I've seen quite a few excellent "adult" movies.

Re:Let's Explore that...shall we? (1)

grumbel (592662) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564803)

### With this in mind, do you really imagine that AO rated games will be heralded for thier "clever design" and "stunning game play"?

Last time I looked that is exactly what happened with Fahrenheit and GTA:SA.

Re:Try another gamble (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 6 years ago | (#20559507)

The industry is keenly aware that there is big money in porn games. That isn't the issue. The issue is that video games are unfortunately regarded as a "kids media" like comic books. And just like comic books in the 1950 legislators have seized on video games (I'm looking at you Hillary Clinton) as a way to score easy "for the children" points against an industry that can't do them a lot of damage. Never mind that most of the legislation they pass is obviously unconstitutional.

It's that last part that's the issue. Video game companies simply do not spend enough money on lobbyists, and rely too much on the courts to protect and vindicate them. They aren't running attack campaigns on legislators that attack them (like Hillary), and they should be. They need to realize that legislators AREN'T well-intentioned (regardless of what they say) and just want to score points. The message they keep sending is "we'll try to do better" but the message they SHOULD be sending is "pick on someone else or we'll hurt you".

Re:Try another gamble (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565301)

Perhaps the industry should open up a bit more to AO rated games. Maybe they'll be surprised as to the results. Last I saw, the porn industry was still thriving.

The market might be more open to AO content if "Adult Content" meant something more to the game developer than pornographic sex and violence.

Rockstar's Manhunt 2 was nothing more than a late attempt to cash in on the success of torture porn [wikipedia.org] flicks like Saw and Hostel - box office poison this past summer.

Money driven (1)

Halow8888 (1140609) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554337)

The folks in the 'M' category are usually the ones who are earning the money. Sure, we buy the games for the little ones, too, but we enjoy a good game as well. And let's face it, the games we play most are the ones with exploding heads and scantily clad girlies.

Graphics Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20554471)

Could it be as simple as graphics? People are drawn to graphically superior (or realistic) games by default. As technology increases you have more realistic animations. Take a game like Super Mario, for example. Seeing a guy squish underneath the feet of mario is innocuous enough to get an E rating. Fast forward 20 years and make the game again, you get a bone crushing, blood spattering animation. But the developers are marketing the game to a younger crowd right? So do you hold back on the realism to net the younger crowd, or do you leave it the way it is to please the mass populous?

M is the new PG-13 (2, Insightful)

shidarin'ou (762483) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554541)

And they probably have the same amount of objectionable material in them, since ESRB ratings are tougher than MPAA. It's interesting that both are directed at different age groups rating wise, have the same content and sell the same. Of course, I stood behind a parent pre-ordering 5 M rated games for their 6 year old, so why am I surprised?

Re:M is the new PG-13 (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555167)

Very insightful and a very valid point to bring up. I too have noticed that an M-rated game is often less "objectionable" than many PG-13 movies. In other words, while M-rated games sell best, that does not mean it's necessarily due to violence/gore (let's face it, there's really no sexual themes in M-rated games to speak of).

Re:M is the new PG-13 (1)

vimh42 (981236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555213)

Why should you be surprised. The rating is a general guideline meant to be informative, not something definitive that a parent should stand by.

Drop the rating "score". (3, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555587)

Many parents have learned to have a knee-jerk reaction to these ratings. For example, I've known a 12-year-old child who is not allowed to watch any R-rated movies.

That's lazy parenting.

If you really don't want your child to see violence, read the actual comments that come with the rating and see what is meant by "violence". Or, gee, watch the movie yourself before deciding whether to show it to your kids.

Maybe if parents (and kids!) were made to actually evaluate the content used, we wouldn't have every game out there deliberately trying for an M, just as every movie tries for PG-13. This means, for example, tweaking a movie to have just a little more violence and a little less sex to fit into that rating.

Re:Drop the rating "score". (1)

justme8800 (633959) | more than 6 years ago | (#20562215)

"Lazy parenting?" Now that's a knee-jerk reaction.

Many parents use the 'no R-rated movies for the preteen' as a good baseline for their decisions. If the kid hears about a movie he thinks he's old enough for, he asks his parents and they make a decision (by watching the movie themselves, reading reviews, by reading the 'graphic rape' MPAA tag, or what-have-you).

In your proposed ideology, one thing is necessary; the parents have to filter everything their child wants to see. Now I don't know about you, but when I was 12, I had the freedom to go places and do things without my parents breathing down my neck. When going to the video store, looking for a movie to watch with friends, it's a lot easier to have a 'no R movies' rule than a 'call mommy and ask her about each possible rental so she can look it up on the internet and pound her gavel' rule. Provided the 12y/o in question has a cell phone to keep himself under his parents' thumb, and the parents have the resources to make a decision (other than "no") on the spot.

Heck, the R baseline is even pretty high for 12... PG13 could be quite plausible at that age. Where do you draw your baseline?

What kind of 12y/o do you know that would rather have their parents constantly censoring them than have a rule to follow? It could be that the parents of your acquaintance really were knee-jerk overprotective and lazy, but you wouldn't know that from a 'no R movies' rule.

Re:Drop the rating "score". (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564191)

Heh. I was allowed to watch my first R-rated movie, "Terminator 2", at 16 or so.

Re:Drop the rating "score". (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565233)

I saw die hard when I was 8. And was playing Doom by 10. Well, mostly watching my dad play it, the bastard. But once he finished, then I played it.

Re:Drop the rating "score". (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565357)

Strangely enough, I was permitted to play pretty much any game I wanted, barring the dreaded Leisure Suit Larry series. That included the spectacular C-64 game "Commando Libya", which I used a hex editor on during Desert Storm to mutate into "Commando Iraq" (i.e. changing the messages displayed), much to the glee and amusement of various returning Army veterans on the BBS I was on back then. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commando_Libya [wikipedia.org]

I kinda miss games like Commando Libya. So simple, yet so fun. I don't imagine we'll see it on the Wii any time soon... *grin*

Lazy Parenting? (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564727)

"Deny all" is a sensible default, in parenting as well as computer security. You can quite reasonably make the determination that given what passes for a PG-13 these days (Die Hard, for crying out loud) there is no reason your twelve year old needs to be seeing an R.

The entire point of having a ratings system is that so you can make a snap judgement about the likely content of a movie, without actually having to see the movie. With the rating system, you can browse the list of 12 shows at the movie theatre and immediately concentrate on the 2-3 that are interesting and appropriate. Without the rating system, you could potentially have to review three movies (thats 6 hours of work!) just to have an evening out with the kids! What parent has that kind of time?

(Incidentally, for parents who need a little more granularity than the PG13 vs. R distinction provides, I recommend the National Conference of Catholic Bishops reviews, which make distinctions between things like mindless-nihilistic-violence and violence-essential-to-establishing-scene-of-uplifting-WWII-movie. They also typically give mildly sexual situations a pass if its between married folks, although I can't remember the last time I saw that in a Hollywood movie...)

Re:Lazy Parenting? (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565413)

Off the top of my head, "A History of Violence". Plenty of sexual situations there between the married couple. I do agree though, Hollywood ought to figure out that married couples are allowed to have sex too.

Re:Lazy Parenting? (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#20566053)

Oh, now I remember: Mr and Mrs Smith. Granted, that isn't quiiiiite the behavior you want to be modeling for your kids. ("Its alright, honey, she's an assassin -- getting beat up is in her job description. And look, she got him back. Gender equality rules.")

On a serious note, though, I wouldn't mind if more movies were like the Incredibles (which suggests, in a wink-and-a-nod way that goes WAY over the heads of the younguns in the audience, that marriage is sexy).

Probably a good reason for this (4, Insightful)

alvinrod (889928) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554559)

After looking over some information [theesa.com] from the ESA, this really doesn't come as much of a surprise to me. They point out that the average age gamers is 33. Does it come as any surprise to anyone that a 'mature' audience might prefer 'mature' content? This isn't to say that all gamers in their twenties and thirties like blood, gore, and other things such that they'll buy any game that has them, but if we look at a lot of the most popular games, they deal with subject matters (warfare, the mafia, etc.) that have violent content in them in order to stay true to the subject matter and portray it more accurately. These people have the disposable income to purchase these games which are most suited to their interests.

Another factor is probably young children perceiving these games as 'mature' and that playing them will make them more grown-up. I don't know how much weight this theory holds, but I've heard it used before and don't find it as hard to accept. There might also be the allure of playing a game that you're 'not supposed to' play because it might be too much for you to handle. Curiosity has probably gotten more people to look at goatse (or something else described as incredibly sick), moreso than any actual attraction to such images. Of course, I don't think younger children have as much disposable income to puchase these games directly, but their parents probably do.

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554865)

The problem I have with this is that some of the best films of our time have not been rated R, and in fact many were PG, or at most PG-13. Hollywood doesn't seem to have a problem with making great films without decapitating someone. So why is it that the game industry, and gamers, feel the need to make bloody, violent messes in order for a game to even be good?

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

Protoslo (752870) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555205)

Perhaps because many of the best films of our time were released when the only choices were 'PG' and 'G'? The canonical example, I think, would be The Graduate, which was rated 'PG' when released, and very recently was re-released as a 40th anniversary edition, earning an 'R' this time around.

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

Kymri (1093149) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555471)

Because many games focus around conflict (if not outright combat, though that's clearly quite popular), and conflict and combat can get messy. Hollywood is less-inclined towards outright violence, but a character-and-dialogue driven drama that can work very well on the big screen (Clerks wouldn't make a very good game without throwing in stuff that wasn't much in the film for obvious gameplay needs, just as one quick off-the-top-of-my-head example).

Of course, there are great games without that level of violence. See most of Nintendo's big sellers (Super Mario Bros, Zelda) and just about any puzzle game ever made.

If you look at movies, most of them that don't have huge budgets go for either lots of dialogue, lots of violence, or trying to startle/scare the audience. The first is difficult (at best) in the games market (and even making allowances for the market, just very difficult to do at all). The second, obviously, is easy. Heck, after Pong and Pac-Man, most people think of games like Defender and Space Invaders and Asteroids which all involve shooting. The last - scaring and startling - is doable, but not easily without getting into M-rated range (see games like System Shock, Bioshock (to a point), and for some people the various 'survival horror' games like Resident Evil.

It's clear that conflict and violence are the easiest ways to make a game interesting to play in a lot of cases.

As another poster mentioned, however, material that would earn a PG-13 rating from the MPAA would often get an 'M' rating from the ESRB - which is an additional reason M-rated games do so well, sometimes: it's just way-easy to end up in that realm.

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555929)

Great films span all ratings levels. If you look at the critically acclaimed movies, you'll find stuff like Wizard of Oz and Snow white, all the way up to Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. If you look at critically acclaimed games, you'll find the same thing. Very tame games like PacMan, Mario, and Tetris, all the way up to Quake, and Rainbow Six. On the other side of the coin, ask someone what their favourite movie of last 3 years was. It most of the time won't be something critically acclaimed, but actually something that's considered to be quite a bad movie, but probably some action flick that moves along quickly, doesn't have a hard story line to follow, and doesn't make them think too much. Same thing goes with games. I know people who rush out and buy copy after copy of FPS #23, even if the games are terrible, just because they want some action game, with lots of blood.

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555713)

You bring up a good point about preferring mature content. I'm now 25. Nintendo generation grown up. I still like gaming, but certain stuff I once would have played isn't appealing anymore.

Now, it's NOT that I like blood and gore. Overall, I'd rather prefer that it's NOT in a game. I also don't need girl's bouncing around with obviously unnaturally exaggerated anatomies. But when I plug in the latest and greatest RPG and am faced with talking cats, 15 year olds with super powers saving the world, and just generally childish acting characters, I can't take it. Final Fantasy X-2 was a prime example of this. I tried to go into that game with an open mind. I really, really did. I like big stories. I like cut scenes. But man, that game's whole atmosphere was so cheesy that I made it half-way through and just couldn't take it anymore. Zelda: Wind Waker was another example. I did play through this, and it was fun, but it could have been SOO much more with more realistic graphics, and a bit of cleaning up in the story. Drop the talking boat, drop the kiddy stuff (for goodness sakes give me an adult to play as the char), and just make the same basic story a bit less chessy. It would have been a much better game.

What I want are games like Baldur's Gate. Jade Empire. SW: KOTOR. Planescape Torment. Neverwinter Nights. Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. All good, mature themed games that don't have the bouncing kitties and balloons. And yes, I realize that all but one of those is made (or at least affiliated with) Bioware. And yes, I'm looking forward to Mass Effect :).

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

sanosuke76 (887630) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564283)

Check out Elder Scrolls: Oblivion IV. I think you'll be quite pleasantly surprised.

Re:Probably a good reason for this (1)

SetupWeasel (54062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20558939)

Take a look at THQ. They are the new Acclaim. Most of their games are shovelware, and they are mostly rated 'E.' Publishers put effort in "mature" games because they think they will sell. Yes, there are plenty of shitty "mature" games, but if a publisher is more willing to pay for shiny graphics and comprehensive marketing for those games, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Games are too expensive. (1)

Telepathetic Man (237975) | more than 6 years ago | (#20560365)

Not to mention those young children probably don't have the money to buy many games at $50-60 a pop. It's a prohibitive price to buy new when you are on a $5-10 a week allowance. The only some kid is going to be able to afford it is if they work at least a minimum wage job that pays more like $200-400 week, and that pretty much precludes anyone under 16 years of age in the U.S. market.

Duh! (4, Funny)

Duffy13 (1135411) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554627)

Everyone knows it's because us gamers are all violent killers who need our training to follow the orders of the internet hate machine.

Jack Thompson is gonna have a busy week spewing BS.

People older than 17... (1)

slyn (1111419) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554665)

have more money than people younger than 17. Kids 14, 15, and early 16 probably only have an income of allowance or an income of nothing. Kids younger than that probably only get games when their parents buy games for them. People aged late 16, 17 and 18 are starting their first jobs, but their still young enough not to have responsibility like paying for food, so they spend it on what they like.

Re:People older than 17... (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555743)

Obviously adults have more income-- however, young adults (high school and college age) often have 100% discretionary income. Sure, that kid only has allowance-- but she can spend all of it on things that are purely for fun. I'm not just talking about proportion, either-- in college I had far more "fun" money than I do now, gainfully employed in the tech sector at age 29.

Online gaming (1)

Mr_Silver (213637) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554723)

Despite online connectivity being a marketing cornerstone for all new consoles, the study concluded that 45 percent of retail games are not utilizing it in any way -- 98 percent of Nintendo Wii games have no online functionality at all.

Can't speak for next-gen consoles but my limited experience of PC online gaming was a complete let down. The major reason being that the team deathmatch type games are really teamy at all.

You start the game and everyone runs off in different directions - the only thing that is team orientated is that half the people don't try to kill you. There is no team-work, covering people, supporting groups in ambushes or anything that would be done in a real-life game (such as paintball).

As such, I got bored pretty quickly.

Re:Online gaming (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555007)

Sounds to me like you should look into joining a clan...TFC (Team Fortress Classic) and CS: Source are quite popular, you could find a clan rather easily for either of those.

Re:Online gaming (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556641)

Yeah, I spent a lot of time in my youth playing TFC (well, TF on the Quake engine, but...). Truly a *great* game, and there was a very strong element of team play necessary if you wanted to succeed.

Re:Online gaming (1)

pokerdad (1124121) | more than 6 years ago | (#20564581)

Sounds to me like you should look into joining a clan...

The thing is that not all of us are so inclined. And while the existence of clans has created a great environment for those who choose to participate in them, for those of us who do not it makes the online component of many games worthless; what team of random strangers stands a chance against an organised clan, regardless of the game?

This has led to many people like me totally abandoning online gaming, even though it should be something I like.

Re:Online gaming (1)

vimh42 (981236) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555383)

You apparently never played on a team. Yeah, you've just described your general "team" play, but that doesn't mean teamwork doesn't exist. If you just join a random group of people, it's difficult to get any teamwork going, mostly because there is nobody to organize them. And since you used paintball as an example, I've played a few games, the majority of the time it's just like on-line "team" play. Just a bunch of chaos. But if you manage to communicate with people, you have a better chance actual teamwork.

The people who played video games as kids... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20554811)

just grew up.

Yea and .. (1)

Brigade (974884) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554885)

Ok .. this is supposed to be a shock?

Let's name off a few "big-seller" franchises:
Xbox360 - Gears of War, Halo, Bioshock, Crackdown
PS3 - Resistance, Lair (yea they didn't sell, but bear with me)
Wii - Mario, Zelda, Metroid

Aside from Nintendo 1st-party, almost every big-selling has been rated M. Also, look at marketing dollars, most all spent on M-rated games. Microsoft and Sony push M-rated titles, publishers push M-rated titles, so that's what sells.

The only franchises that sell that aren't M-rated that I can recall hearing about through advertising or word-of-mouth are any of the Nintendo 1st-party, or EA's sports lineup, or PS's platformers (Jak and Ratchet)

This isn't like the movie industry, where they will make a big summer movie targeted as PG-13. Most of the "big" games are designed from the ground-up to be rated M. Those get the buzz, those get pushed, and those are the ones that get sold. It's all about supply, demand, and marketing.

Here's a fun game: Quick, list off the first 5 successful games/franchises that come to mind. I'll go first:
Metal Gear
Final Fantasy
Halo
GTA
Zelda

3 rated M, an RPG, and a 1st-party Nintendo game. That's 60% right there.

Re:Yea and .. (1)

random256 (676708) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555489)

Just to pop your bubble real fast, you seem to forget that some of the biggest and fastest selling titles are sports and racing games. Y'know, which aren't M rated. And which are heavily marketed.

PS3 Sales (1)

fistfullast33l (819270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555903)

Okay you obviously know nothing about PS3 sales. Lair didn't sell (it's been out two weeks, for chrissakes). Best sellers are Resistance and Motorstorm [vgchartz.com] , both of which have been out a lot longer. Oh, and they did sell - in fact Resistance would have placed 7th on the Xbox 360 list, just above Madden '07 and Motorstorm would be in the top 20 for worldwide 360 sales [vgchartz.com] , which for a console that has been out one year less isn't that bad.

Re:Yea and .. (1)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556287)

60% in your world maybe. Keep in mind that the most successful gaming franchise of *all time* is rated E (I am, of course, talking about The Sims). That one series has kicked the collective asses of your 3 M-rated successful franchises...

Variable Content (1)

Jaqenn (996058) | more than 6 years ago | (#20554915)

It's because games which are awesome tend to (coincidentally?) be M-rated. At least in some genres. FPS comes to mind.

I say that the industry is failing to exploit the biggest strength of a video game - on the fly decision making. Most games could support a variable level of sex, or gore, or profanity, or whatever without a lot of additional effort.

Yes, sometimes it's an integral part of the gameplay, but just as often it's not. I say that for every game where turning off decapitation would screw up all your combat animations, there's a game where you could load transparent textures in place of your blood splats, load alternate audio tracks for your dialog, and change rockets to gib people 0% of the time instead of 20% of the time.

Some people would say, "You want me to ship an entire set of alternate textures for every model in the game? That's going to double the amount of artwork on the disk!" No it won't. It would inflate the amount of artwork you have to create and ship, but you only have to create and alternate set of textures for a fraction of your game. Stone walkways and exit signs don't need an alternate texture set.

Note that today, the ESRB claims to rate your title on whatever ships on the disk, regardless of if it is accessible to the player or not (I'm looking at you, Rockstar). The rating system we have today would need to be adapted to accommodate variable levels of content.

Re:Variable Content (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556569)

The only problem I see with that is that if the textures are on the disk, then someone is going to find them, find a way to unlock them, and then the game production company gets in a lot of trouble for releasing AO content in a T rated game. For more info, see the Hot Coffee Mod [wikipedia.org] . What they would have to do, is release different disks with completely different content. It would still be possible, but might be a little more difficult.

M vs. PG13 (2, Insightful)

Alzheimers (467217) | more than 6 years ago | (#20555539)

How many "M" games with the gameplay removed would be rated "PG13" vs. "R" for a movie (machinima)? (hint) [imdb.com]

Similarly, how many "R" movies, with the addition of the simple mechanic of "Press A to continue", would be reclassified as "AO" rather than "M"?

The problem with Standards is that everybody has their own.

Re:M vs. PG13 (2)

east coast (590680) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556031)

That is true enough. Without being able to get to your link (at work) I sat and thought about it. The fact is that such family classics as The Bad News Bears (1976) would get an M rating by the ESRB if it were a video game. Look at it:

1. Smoking
2. Drinking
3. Underage drinking
4. Mild violence
5. Mild racism
6. Suggestive themes

And for the love of God that film has a scene with an eight year old boy in his underwear!

The ESRB would have a field day with this movie. The MPAA should have made this at least rated R.

Re:M vs. PG13 (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20559837)

"Rated PG-13 for non-stop martial arts action"

The MPAA is SO professional.

The ESRB rating system is flawed (1)

ral315 (741081) | more than 6 years ago | (#20556467)

The ESRB rating system is fundamentally flawed. Essentially, the "E" rating is given to mostly sports games, and games like Mario Party that are aimed at all audiences. "E-10+" covers very few games, mostly those "E" games that want to slip in a swear word or two for shock value. "T" gets a bit more use, as it covers fantasy games with violence, and a few other games (Tony Hawk, Sims) with a bit harsher language or some barely sexual content. "M" covers most successful games, because almost all FPS games are rated M. "AO" is also one that gets little-to-no usage, because no one will carry such a game. The ESRB would probably have a more even distribution, and perhaps a better system, by combining "E-10+" and "T" into one rating, say, "YA" (Young Adults), and this would cover all E-10 material and some Teen material. "M" would be split into "M-14" and "M-17" (similar to the distinction between PG-13 and R in the MPAA); both would allow gore, but M-14 might cover the less gory, more realistic games like Medal of Honor and Command and Conquer (currently "T") and a few of the popular FPS. More gritty, destructive games might fit under "M-17" (GTA, Mortal Kombat). I'm not saying this wouldn't be gamed like the ESRB system is, but it would at least separate out the tame "M" games from the more destructive. The CSI games, for example, are rated "M" when the most graphic thing there are relatively tame autopsies, not near as graphic as those seen on the "TV-14" rated television show, where one of the characters was once sprayed with blood from the opening of a corpse's cranium. "M-14" would more appropriately reflect this game.

Spin (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20565799)

Spin: This proves that kids are getting their hands on M-rated games, and we must fight to push these bills that classify video-games in the same camp as pornography!

Spin: Well, duh, studies have also shown that the vast majority of gamers are adults, and that the average age of gamers continues to rise. It isn't shocking that adult gamers might purchase content catered to a mature audience.

Spin: In addition to trying to get Bush to testify, Thompson will now subpoena The Pope, Nolan Bushnell, and Big Bird to prove that the war in Iraq was caused by a generation of adults raised on violent games like Pong.
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