European Ratings Initiative Expands to Online Gaming

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association announced the introduction of PEGI Online today. The online addition to the Pan European Game Information ratings system expands the ratings to "include games playable online via consoles, PCs and mobiles."

The official PEGI Online website lists browser-based games, advergames, network games, and massively multiplayer games as the four main categories of "online" games to be covered by the initiative.

A PEGI Online logo will appear on participating gaming Web sites or on retail boxes of online games. The logo details the online capabilities of the game and specifies whether "the particular game or site is under the control of an operator that cares about protecting young people," according to the PEGI Online site.

To be a part of PEGI Online, participating companies must meet the requirements laid out in the PEGI Online Safety Code. Requirements include games being age-rated under the standard PEGI system, the existence of reporting mechanisms for harmful content, and methods to remove offensive materials.

Participants must also obey certain advertising principles, such as not advertising for their products in a way "that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence."

Some of the initiative's motivations address issues the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has had with publishers in the United States. The PEGI Online Web site says the initiative aims to protect children from "content being created as a result of the game which could be unsuitable for young people and a mismatch with the rating given for the game."

Both Rockstar North's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Bethesda Game Studios' The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion brought the ESRB under fire due to user-created mods made available for the games after their retail release. Notably, the PEGI Online initiative places the regulatory responsibility for such content with the participating publishers.