The easiest of the platforms to spot is the Nintendo GameCube. Here is its distribution:
On both of the other platforms, the Xbox and PS2, games from the E and E10+ categories account for less than half of the game catalogs. On the GameCube over 51% of the games were rated E and 6.1% were rated E10+. This makes the GameCube appear to be more friendly for younger gamers. While only 7.5% of the GameCube catalog was rated M, that fraction represents a significantly larger proportion than found on either the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance where M-rated games are less than 1% of the software library.
The overwhelming success of the PlayStation 2 is the key to distinguishing its distribution of game ratings from that of the Xbox. As an exceedingly popular platform, the PlayStation 2 attracted budget-priced software and licensed games starring characters from children's television programs, cartoons, and movies. For this software to succeed commercially it must be accessible to the largest population possible. Therefore, publishers may seek the most consumer-friendly ratings of E or (at worst) E10+. For example, every SpongeBob SquarePants game in the ESRB database is rated E. Additionally, all but one of the 184 games with Disney in the title (across all platforms) received an E, E10+, or EC (for "Early Childhood") rating. (The exception -- a game based on the PG-rated Pixar movie The Incredibles -- received a T rating.)
The flood of licensed and budget software on the PlayStation 2 may explain the modest differences between the distributions for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, pictured below:
The PlayStation 2 has slightly more E-rated software (40.1% compared to 37.3% on the Xbox) and significantly more E10+-rated software (7.1% compared with 4.5%). Microsoft courted an older set of consumers with its Xbox marketing, which may explain why over 19% of Xbox games were rated appropriate for a mature audience. That is, publishers released M-rated games for a platform which appeared to attract older gamers.
While we are only a year into the current generation of console hardware, the ratings of their games already reveal some interesting characteristics. As before, here are the graphs for each of the three systems, without labels and in random order:
Take a few moments to try to determine which you think is which. Then go to the next page for the answers and some possible explanations.