An online marketing campaign for the free-to-play MMO game Wartune has caught the attention of the ESRB, who claims that it has asked the game's "publisher" to stop claiming that it has an ESRB "Adults Only" (AO) rating. The game has yet to be rated by the board, according to the organization.
"We have advised the game's publisher that they must discontinue their unauthorized use of our AO rating icon in its marketing," an ESRB representative told GamesIndustry International.
Even if the game did have an AO rating, the marketing campaign that has appeared on such popular websites as Major Nelson's Blog and through Google's AdSense network violates the ESRB's advertising guidelines which prohibit exploiting a game's ratings. Wartune's advertising campaign features the AO rating symbol and the tagline "Adult Gamers Only."
"While it's fairly rare for a game to self-apply a rating we will always move quickly to address the issue," the ESRB representative continued. "Our goal is, of course, that they immediately stop using the rating. If a game is digitally distributed, we also encourage companies to use our Digital Rating Service, which is fast and easy and assigns ratings without the developer having to pay a fee."
The big question mark is who exactly did the ESRB contact to deliver its ultimatum. The game is apparently published in multiple online game portals including Kabam, Kongregate, Armor Games, NGames, R2Games, and Proficient City Limited. The game is developed by China-based by 7 Road.