Starting from today, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the non-profit organization that assigns ratings to over 1,000 video games each year, will introduce a computer program designed to replace the rating process for digitally-distributed console games.
ESRB said in a news release that the program is based on a detailed digital questionnaire that will take into account displays of violence, sexuality, drug use and other subjects that may offend.
The new scheme is being put in place due to the increase in the number of games being released online. The questionnaire will be filled out by the creators of each game submitted, with penalties subjected for nondisclosure. Each category is then broken down into subcategories, focusing on specific areas.
The board noted that this new system will be put into motion this week for all games released via Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, WiiWare and DSiWare. All other games will undergo the traditional ESRB review process.
Each digital console game will be reviewed and given a rating automatically before being released. However, the board noted, "All games rated via this new process will be tested by ESRB staff shortly after they are made publicly available to verify that disclosure was complete and accurate."
"The ESRB rating process that has been in use since 1994 was devised before the explosion in the number of digitally delivered games and devices on which to play them," said ESRB president Patricia Vance.
"These games, many of which tend to be casual in nature, are being produced in increasing numbers, by thousands of developers, and generally at lower costs," she added.
"This new rating process considers the very same elements weighed by our raters. The biggest difference is in our ability to scale this system as necessary while keeping our services affordable and accessible."
The ESRB confirmed last month
that the majority of video game releases in 2010 received an E rating, with around 5 percent given a Mature rating.