Japanese consumer game website Dengeki Online is reporting that the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization (CERO) in Japan is to implement a new ratings system for video games sold in the country, beginning from March 1st.
The new system is, in fact, somewhat more complex than the existing one, with five new ratings labelled A, B, C, D and Z. A is equivalent to the current CERO All rating for all ages, B is for CERO 12 for ages twelve and over, C for CERO 15, and the D rating is for ages seventeen and up – of which there was no previous equivalent. The Z rating is equivalent to CERO 18, which, despite its similarity in age restrictions to the D rating will, unlike the other ratings, be regulated by the government.
As such, the Z rating is likely to become equivalent to the AO (Adults Only) rating used in the U.S., which although not regulated by the government, is not sold by most retail chains in the U.S. Ratings A to D in Japan will continue to be advisory only, just as the CERO system was before it.
Although historically there has been little controversy in Japan regarding in-game violence and other disputed content, concerns have been raised in the current generation – inevitably centring around Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series. The first two PlayStation 2 games in the series were released by Capcom in Japan and became minor hits, although the sale of Grand Theft Auto III was banned from being sold to anyone under the age of eighteen in two separate Japanese prefectures.
As a result of the bans, which Capcom vigorously contested, the Japanese trade organization CESA (Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association) suggested a voluntary program to prevent the sale of games rated over eighteen to minors. Although it is not specifically stated by Dengeki Online, the new ratings system announced today has presumably been the result of these suggestions.