ESRB tones down age gate rules

Entertainment Software Rating Board now allowing precleared trailers online without requiring users to enter birthdate.


New Entertainment Software Rating Board guidelines will change the way M for Mature games are promoted through online videos. According to a document from the ratings group obtained by GameSpot sister site Giant Bomb, publishers will now be able to distribute videos for M-rated games without an age gate.

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Previously, publishers had to keep this content behind an age gate, forcing viewers to enter their birthdate to view the content. The new system does, however, require preclearance from the ESRB. The content must be deemed "suitable" by the group.

This change applies to games that are rated M, as well as those expected to be rated M at the time of their releases.

Similar to previews for movies, new game trailers for M-rated titles will have a green "slate" that appears before the trailer begins, which is required to be onscreen for at least four seconds.

A second change to the ESRB guidelines has to do with the cross-selling of games. As part of the new guidelines, publishers can now promote a Mature-rated game (or one expected to receive a Mature rating) through a title that has been assigned a lesser rating, so long as the ESRB has provided explicit approval.

Two additional policy changes were addressed in the document. First, the ESRB no longer requires demos to flash a game's rating for four seconds before the title launches. And second, the ESRB will no longer enforce a rule that stated ESRB and ratings from international groups like Europe's PEGI could not be displayed next to one another on websites and other social media channels.

All new changes are effective immediately.

The ESRB's changes come during a time of increased political discussion of the relationship between virtual violence and real-world violence.

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