Not too long ago, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) confirmed that the free age rating option available for video games would cease next month in June. Concerned developers quickly took to Twitter, worried that current policies would bar them from releasing their games physically.
The concern arose from the fact that the ESRB currently offers two types of ratings: long form and short form. According to the agency’s website, long form ratings are highly intensive to ensure maximum thoroughness in the rating; previously, long form ratings were required in order to release a game physically. Short form ratings, on the other hand, could be performed for games that would be released and distributed digitally, requiring that publishers answer a questionnaire and receive a rating in a largely automated process.
With the elimination of the free age rating system that ESRB, many indie developers were concerned that they would be unable to release their games on a physical platform, which would require a long form rating and the costs that would come with it—costs that can often rise to the thousands.
However, in a recent tweet from ESRB, the rating company confirmed that:
Developers of digital games and apps will still be able to obtain ESRB ratings at no cost through the IARC rating process. The Microsoft Store deployed IARC years ago and has committed to making IARC ratings accessible to all Xbox developers. So, developers should not be concerned.
The IARC, or International Age Rating Coalition, is a fairly recent age rating system already in place across multiple platforms and storefronts in order to expedite rating allocation in a streamline process. This is great news for indie or small-time developers who are already on a budget-crunch, and the ESRB has promised to keep developers abreast of the changes as the current short form system is phased out come June.
In the tweet, ESRB mentioned that the Microsoft Store had already implemented IARC, but several other storefronts have as well, including Google Play, Nintendo, and even the Oculus Store. Of major consumer storefronts, it seems that the PlayStation Store will end up being the next big newcomer to make the shift.