The Entertainment Software Ratings Board will stop offering its ‘short form’ ratings process in the future, though the organization notes that it has no “hard date” for when the option will be fully retired as of yet.
The loss of the ESRB’s short form ratings process is something of particular concern to indie developers since the option is the go-to path for having digital-only games rated by the ESRB and, unlike the long form rating process, offered free of charge.
In a statement to Gamasutra, the ESRB explains that developers can instead seek to have their games rated for free through the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), a rating system created by the ESRB to standardize game ratings systems across different regions by using one process to apply multiple, region-specific age ratings.
However, the IARC is a storefront-specific rating option and is currently only supported by the Nintendo eShop, Google Play, Oculus Store, and Xbox. So, while PlayStation support is expected “soon”, developers are currently not able to use the IARC ratings program to grab an ESRB (or PEGI, USK, or other regional board) rating for platforms not included in that list.
“We expect that an ESRB ratings solution will be available to all developers of console downloadable games at no cost to them without interruption,” said an ESRB representative. “Despite what some developers may have heard, we do not yet have a hard date for when the ESRB Short Form process will be retired. We will provide the developer community with concrete updates on this matter as they become available.”
“Obtaining ESRB rating assignments for digitally delivered games and apps will continue to be free of cost for developers and publishers. It’s true that the Short Form rating process will soon be discontinued, but developers and publishers will still be able to obtain free ESRB rating assignments for digitally delivered games and apps via the IARC rating process,” continues the statement. “The Microsoft Store deployed the IARC rating system years ago and has committed to providing access to IARC ratings for all Xbox digital game developers. The IARC rating system is also available to developers of digital games and apps in the Nintendo eShop, Google Play, and the Oculus Store. It will soon be deployed by the PlayStation Store, as well. Physical product will continue to go through the ESRB Long Form rating process, for which developers must pay a fee.”