The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced what they are calling a "streamlined, no-cost service for assigning ratings to all digitally delivered games." The ESRB's new "Digital Rating Service" gives developers and publishers access to a "brief but detailed online questionnaire" to define a product's content, age-appropriateness, interactive elements, and platforms. The new service will be used first on downloadable games available on Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Certified devices, Nintendo eShop, Wii Shop Channel and Windows 8, with other digital content aggregators, online game networks, streaming and download services to follow. Presumably it will not include games on Apple's, Amazon's, or Google's Android marketplaces..
"Consumers have grown accustomed to using ESRB ratings when making decisions about the appropriateness of the games their families play. With the explosion of devices from which consumers can access games today, our goal is to ensure that those same tools are available everywhere games can be found," said ESRB president Patricia Vance. "More recently, parents’ concerns have begun to extend beyond just content to include the sharing of their kids’ personal information or location and interactions with other players. ESRB’s Digital Rating Service now offers all digital platforms, storefronts and networks the opportunity to empower their customers with consistent, credible, familiar and useful upfront guidance no matter where their family chooses to play games."
The most notable part of the new ratings system is that it highlights games that share information or private data or that may give access to "unfiltered" or "unrated" downloadable content. From the press release:
"Shares Info" indicates that user-provided personal information (e.g., e-mail address, phone number, credit card info, etc.) is shared with third parties;
"Shares Location" indicates the ability to display the user’s location to other users; and
"Users Interact" indicates possible exposure to unfiltered/uncensored user-generated content, including user-to-user communications and media sharing via social media and networks.
You can read the ESRB's press release on the new ratings system here (PDF) or check out the video they released to your left.
Thanks to Andrew Eisen for the tip.