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NIMF Backs ESA's Call For App Store Game Content Ratings
NIMF Backs ESA's Call For App Store Game Content Ratings
June 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft

June 15, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

A week after Entertainment Software Association CEO Michael Gallagher suggested that App Store games for iPod Touch and iPhone should have content ratings, the National Institute on Media and the Family has jumped on board to back his comments.

"Gallagher took a great first step offering to work with Apple to ensure inappropriate content does not make its way into kids’ lives," said NIMF president Dr. David Walsh in a statement on Monday.

Currently, there are no content ratings for iPhone and iPod Touch games. Walsh said Gallagher exhibited "foresight in identifying the latest challenge for parents."

As digital distribution services such as Apple's App Store continues to gain traction in the games sector, the application of age ratings has become more of a challenge, Walsh added.

Gallagher told reporters last week, as relayed by Kotaku, that it would be "wise" for Apple to figure out a game ratings solution.

"We would welcome the opportunity to work with them, we are reaching out to encourage that," he said.

To that, Walsh stated, "I hope Apple accepts his offer and reaches out to other organizations like the ESRB and non-industry groups who are concerned about this issue and can offer valuable insight."

In March, a survey found that there are over 6,000 games on the App Store, an astonishing number considering the service launched less than a year ago.

But ESRB head Pat Vance said her organization could handle the extra volume. "ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace," she said.

Currently, there are age ratings on App Store games, although not all games have content descriptors. id's Wolfenstein 3D has a rating of "12+", for example, citing "frequent/intense horror/fear themes". Chillingo's iDracula, a game centered around a vampire hunter who uses machine guns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers to dispatch supernatural enemies, is rated as appropriate for children four years and older. That game has no content descriptors.

Apple is planning a software update for later month to incorporate parental controls to restrict downloads based on those age ratings.

NIMF doesn't always see eye-to-eye with the ESA and ESRB on certain aspects of the video game industry. The family-focused group has criticized the effectiveness of the ESRB's rating system in the past, and most recently, the ESA called into question the legitimacy of an April study conducted in part by NIMF that claimed one in 10 young gamers show signs of addiction.

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Frank Smith
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I think if Apple wanted to give a third party partial control of its company with no foreseeable benefits, they would have done it already. I'm not going to put my companies success into the hands of a broken system. Stop with the industry power grabs. The ESRB rates retail games and does a poor job of it, fix that first.

Dylan Baker
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Calling BS on this one. Apple already has 'figure[d] out a game ratings solution', which is actually divided comparably to the ESRB - 4+, 9+, 12+, and 17+, and I have yet to see a game without a rating on it, not to mention that the iTunes parental controls are a lot more enforceable than at retail. This is cultural power-mongering.

Kris Graft
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That's important to note Dylan. I updated our piece.

I'll have to say though, perusing through a few examples of the current App ratings, it seems pretty random right now.

Duong Nguyen
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Funny I thought Apple already have a rating system in place. I guess they mean, they want Apple to use their rating system, which if it works like the ESRB, developers have to apply for a rating through their scheme for a nominal fee of course (I see dollar signs in someones eyes).

Tyrone Rodriguez
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"But ESRB head Pat Vance said her organization could handle the extra volume. 'ESRB has seen increases in rating submissions each year since its founding and has always been able to keep pace,' she said."

6,000 games at $800-$4,000 per eval is between 4.8 and 24million dollars. Of course the ESRB thinks rating the apps store is a good idea.