The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is planning to remove its “short form” ratings process in the near future, according to Gamasutra, and that could make things difficult for indie developers who create digital-only games.
Video games are typically rated one of two ways by the ESRB. Physical titles typically sold at retail go through a “long form” process that includes an online questionnaire and a submitted video. Games available solely via download or accessible only online are rating using the “short form” process, which is offered free of charge. Games that go through the long form process must pay a fee.
The ESRB told Gamasutra in a statement developers can still have their games rated for free via the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC), which provides a globally streamlined age classification process for digital titles. But, the IARC is currently limited. It only supports the Nintendo eShop, Google Play, Oculus Store, and Microsoft Store. Notably, it doesn’t support Steam — the biggest digital PC storefront — or the PlayStation Store, although the ESRB said support for the Sony platform is coming “soon.”
The ESRB said it doesn’t have a “hard date” set for when it will eliminate the short form process.
The U.S. government recently asked the ESRB to review its ratings process after games like “Star Wars Battlefront 2” and “Destiny 2” generated outrage and concern over their loot box practices. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) wrote a letter to ESRB president Patricia Vance and asked the organization to look into how loot boxes are marketed to children. The senator also asked the ratings board to conduct a study on the reach and impact of loot boxes in games. Following the controversy, the ESRB announced it will create a new labeling system for microtransactions and introduce educational efforts to teach parents about them.
ESRB has not responded to Variety’s request for comment.