IDSA to address the marketing of M-rated games?

The marketing of games such as Quake and Resident Evil could change drastically in the near future.

The Interactive Digital Software Association is expected to introduce a new proposal to the FTC outlining its plans to address the marketing of Mature-rated games to persons under 17, according to a recent report on Gamecenter. The publication cited what it claimed is an internal IDSA report outlining the guidelines that the software industry's trade body plans to present to its members regarding the marketing of M-rated games. GameSpot spoke with an IDSA representative, who said that the document in question was not released by the organization. However, the IDSA declined to comment when asked if the document was part of an internal proposal that the company might introduce in the future.

"Since 1994 the IDSA has had a provision in its advertising code that prohibits the marketing of Mature-rated games to persons for whom they're not rated as appropriate," the company said in a formal statement to GameSpot. "The monitoring and enforcement provisions for the advertising code were shifted to the ESRB's Advertising Review Counsel in February of 2000. Since the release last year of the FTC report, the IDSA has continued to engage in internal discussions about this issue. However, the document to which you refer was not released by the IDSA, and we have no further comment at this time about the document or our internal discussions."

The document in question outlines specific guidelines related to the marketing of Mature-rated content to individuals under the age of 17. The following are some of the specifics discussed.

  • Ads for M-rated games may not be placed on television programs where 35 percent or more of the viewers are under 17.
  • Paid ads for M-rated games shall not be placed on Web sites where 45 percent or more of the visitors are under 17.
  • Game publishers shall not enter into promotions for M-rated products with another company's brands, products, or events if it is reasonable to believe that such company's products, brands, or events will reach a substantial audience of persons under 17 years old. Further, companies shall not promote M-rated products at concerts or events where a substantial portion of the audience is likely to be under 17 years old.
  • All e-mail marketing messages promoting M-rated products must contain information about the title's rating and content descriptors. This can be accomplished either through display of the rating in the message or text within the message. Further, all titles listed or promoted in a company's online store must show rating information and content descriptor information on the page where the game information is provided, and such information must be available prior to ordering.
  • In the event a publisher authorizes a third party to sell products based on the publisher's Mature- or Teen-rated titles (licensed products), the publisher shall require that the packaging of the licensed product include the following statement: "This item is based on a [Mature or Teen] rated video game."
The report suggests that briefings with IDSA members, which include most of the major video game publishers, will be initiated in the next few weeks. GameSpot contacted several third-party publishers, who all declined to comment. However, as members of the IDSA, several publishers did acknowledge that there are ongoing internal discussions regarding the proper marketing of video games. Games such as Resident Evil and Quake III Arena are rated Mature under the ESRB software ratings system.

Should the IDSA take a more active role in regulating the marketing and sales of M-rated games? Share your thoughts in Talkback below.

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