The Entertainment Software Rating Board has confirmed that developers of digital games will still be able to acquire free ratings.
American ratings board ESRB is phasing out its Short Form application process for digital games. The short questionnaire automatically generated ratings for digitally released titles for free - allowing small teams to release games online without the lengthy, expensive process required by console manufacturers to release physically.
In lieu of the old process, developers can now acquire free ratings for digital software through the International Age Rating Coalition. Right now, an IARC rating is acceptable on the Microsoft Store, Oculus Store, Nintendo eShop and Google Play; the PlayStation store will accept them at a later date. Steam currently doesn’t require ratings to sell games, while Amazon and Apple stores are likely to continue their own internal ratings.
“It’s true that the Short Form rating process will soon be discontinued, but developers and publishers will still be able to obtain free rating assignments for digitally delivered games and apps via the IARC rating process,” an ESRB spokesperson told Gamesbeat.
Getting a game box onto store shelves requires completion of a long questionnaire and submission of large chunks of gameplay and cutscene footage. This response is then reviewed by a panel of three, with an eye for “pertinent content” like sexual themes, violence and drug use. Costs scale by development budget, but even lower-budget games might shill out over $3000.
The Short Form process was a godsend to solo developers and smaller studios, many of whom weren’t producing games designed to be sold in physical stores.