Some rather curious developments out of the U.K. yesterday...
Early on, James Kirkup, political correspondent for The Guardian, wrote a story to the effect that the British government would recommend that the BBFC, which rather famously banned Manhunt 2 last year, should rate games for the UK market. Kirkup predicted the official word would come today.
Later yesterday, ELSPA, which represents UK game publishers, called Kirkup's report "speculation" and "scaremongering."
Yet Kirkup has proved prescient. As Edge reports this morning:
A report from the UK House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media, and Sport has revealed that body’s preference in BBFC ratings over the industry self-regulating PEGI system...
the committee maintains that BBFC ratings are more “thorough and rigorous" than the PEGI system, and that the BBFC symbols “command greater confidence”...
Meanwhile, the CMS committee's report itself concludes:
There is a distinct issue about labelling of video games to indicate the nature of their content. Two systems currently exist side by side: the industry awards its own ratings, and the British Board of Film Classification awards classifications to a small number of games which feature content unsuitable for children. The dual system is confusing, and Dr [Tanya] Byron recommended that there should instead be a single hybrid system. We believe that Dr Byron's solution may not command confidence in the games industry and would not provide significantly greater clarity for consumers.
While either of the systems operated by the BBFC and by the industry would be workable in principle, we believe that the widespread recognition of the BBFC's classification categories and their statutory backing offer significant advantages which the industry's system lacks. We therefore agree that the BBFC should have responsibility for rating games with content appropriate for adults or teenagers, as proposed by Dr Byron, and that these ratings should appear prominently. Distributors would of course be free to continue to use industry ratings in addition.
Gizmodo terms the CMS recommendation "decisive," adding:
The decision will come as a real blow to the pan-European games rating system, PEGI, backed by games software developer organisation, ELSPA as well as big guns like Microsoft, Nintendo and Ubisoft.