The Electronic Software Ratings Board, as many of you already know, is the organization that assigns age-based ratings for video games here in the United States. At the moment, only a fraction of games get rated since the sheer number of digital games makes rating each and every one of them a seemingly insurmountable challenge. Today, the ESRB announced that it has made the process of rating digital games a whole lot easier for the itself and developers alike.
Normally when developers want a game rated, they have to pay the ESRB to review a DVD of in-game footage, but the ESRB has done a lot to streamline the process for digital titles. Instead of sending in a DVD of game footage, developers simply fill out a questionnaire that determines a rating for their game. They can fill out the questionnaire and submit it to the ESRB free of charge too, which should do a lot to get more developers using the ESRB's rating system. As an added bonus for consumers, the ESRB's digital rating system will not only assign age-based ratings, but also tell consumers if the game will share their data and location, among other things.
Naturally, there's cause for concern when it comes to this self-rating system, as developers could potentially lie about their game to get a "better" rating (if such a thing even exists when it comes to game ratings). However, the ESRB tells Ars Technica that its tests show that the self-rating method works nearly as well as ESRB representatives assigning the ratings themselves, so the organization is confident that bogus self-ratings won't be much of an issue. If they do become an problem, the ESRB can always rescind a developer's access to its ratings program as punishment, though developers can appeal if they think the rating of their game wasn't handled properly.
At first, this streamlined ratings systems will only be available for digital games on big platforms, such as Xbox Live, PSN, the Nintendo eShop, and the Windows 8 Store. Don't expect ESRB-rated games to begin popping up on the iOS App Store or Google Play Store anytime soon though, as both Apple and Google use their own ratings systems for apps and actually shot down proposals from the ESRB last year. What do you think of the ESRB's digital rating system - is it a good idea, or is the organization just opening itself up for abuse?