The ESRB (The Entertainment Software Rating Board responsible for regulating videogame classification in North America) has launched a free service for developers and publishers to self-rate downloadable games (via GI International
Beyond just getting an ESRB age rating, titles that use the Digital Rating Services will also have online privacy descriptors to let customers know about game functions they may find undesirable. The descriptors will warn customers if a game shares their personal information with third parties, their location with other users, or allows uncensored user interaction through direct communications, media sharing, or user-generated content.
"By simplifying the process and eliminating the cost to developers, the ESRB expects to broaden adoption of its ratings among game providers of all types," the ESRB explained in a statement. "The resulting ubiquity of ESRB ratings will ease a parent's job by presenting a single ratings standard across the many platforms on which their children access games. Increased adoption of ESRB ratings also means that developers will no longer be subject to differing and oftentimes conflicting rating systems and standards for their digitally delivered games."
The move is a huge boon for indie developers, who can now provide simple guidance to consumers without having to shell out fees for classification. However, although this new service will be useful to developers publishing on the North American store-fronts of platforms like XBLA, PSN, Wii Shop, and Windows Store, the Australian skews of those services will likely still require Australian Classification Board ratings for regional certification, which necessitates a significant fee for it's government-regulated process.
Hit up the ESRB press release
, and watch the video below for a bit more information.