One of the common costs faced in video games development when publishing a game is the age ratings certificates. It is an often-forgotten expense that can lead to a ban on publication on certain platforms and in certain territories.
You can find so many different age ratins as areas in the world. This territories are gradually being unified. The main territories are:
- America. Managed by ESRB, free for digital format, paid for physical format.
- Europe. With the exception of Germany, is managed by PEGI ratings. Rates vary depending on the number of platforms, and the size and budget of the game.
- Germany is managed by USK ratings. It is necessary to pay once per platform and its rates vary according to the time needed for testing. In addition, from the second platform onwards, the price is reduced.
- Australia, managed by ACB, or also known as COB where you only need a single payment for all platforms.
- New Zealand, which is a member of ACB, but in exceptional cases requires its own rating (OFLC). This occurs when the rating obtained in Australia is higher than M15. New Zealand’s rating may then be lower than this M15.
- Japan is awarded by ZERO must be obtained by a company based in Japan. To do this, you need a partner there.
- For the Asian territory, there are several ratings that have to be obtained separately and that should be studied to see if a minimum quota is going to be sold in those territories:
- South Korea, GRB.
- Taiwan, CSRRR.
- Singapore, MDA.
In addition, there are age ratings of territories that adhere to the ratings of larger territories. An example would be the rating of Brazil (DJCTQ), which accepts the ESRB for publication in its territory, or that of Russia (PCBP), which accepts PEGI.
Companies think that the trend in terms of age ratings is to facilitate and reduce costs by unifying them into a single global age rating called IARC. LARC is valid only for exclusively digital products and with certain exceptions by platform. In any case, if you publish the game in physical format, you have to obtain the certificates for the territory where you are going to distribute the game.
On the other hand, the level of demand on the platforms differs from one another.
Steam and Nintendo Switch, support IARC perfectly. You can obtain LARC certificate for free and intantly. If we intend to distribute a cartridge game, Nintendo will require a Certificate from us before we can pass the platform certification processes.
Regarding PC games, you are solely responsible for the manufacture and therefore for complying with current legislation in terms of age ratings. If you don’t put the correct age rating on the cover of the game, the agencies responsible for age ratings can fine you if they find any irregularity.
Age ratings certificates for consoles
Microsoft in its ID developer program is perhaps the most demanding platform at the moment and asks for all the certificates before publishing. If you do not submit them, you cannot publish the game in those territories, either digitally or physically.
PlayStation does not require age ratings for game certification. They leave it to the discretion of the developer or Publisher, which does not mean that they are exempt from obtaining it if necessary. Basically they put the responsibility on the developer, who will have to be the one to respond in case of illegality.
Requirements for age ratings
Another frequently asked question is about price. It varies depending on some factors, such as game budget, game size, number of platforms, format, etc. The developer should set aside between 5,000€ and 10,000€ to cover expenses, including age rating.
Finally, the time to obtain the ratings ranges from one day to 30 days. Express ratings can be requested for an extra fee. Ideally, these times should be taken into account so as not to delay the platform certification processes. The materials that are generally required by certification agencies are: A build to evaluate, a gameplay video that shows the remarkable scenes in which violence, sex, drugs or any other object of classification may appear. Each rating agency has its own specific features and needs to be built by platform, forms, mailing…
In our opinion is a rather archaic and bureaucratic process that requires some dedication the first few times.
We recommend that you register with the agencies as soon as possible and clarify the details with the support services of each of them. They are usually friendly and quick in solving problems.
As a last tip, we recommend contacting and explaining the game situation with each agency so that they can advise you and tell you how to proceed. The difference in money can be more than 15,000 euros (up to 30,000 euros) if you get unnecessary ratings or making a bad classification of our game in a category to which it does not belong, or for an unnecessary platform.
We hope to have shed some light regarding age rating systems and some of its quirks.