Angry Birds is rated E for Everyone--and not just because everyone in the developed world seems to have the game. The ESRB has announced a new partnership with the CTIA Wireless Association to bring ESRB ratings to mobile phones and applications.
The storefronts for AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint, T-Mobile USA, US Cellular, and Verizon Wireless will support ESRB ratings during the application submission (onboarding) process. According to the announcement, "other storefronts" have indicated interest in joining as well.
Today's announcement, while significant, will really only affect feature phones. Without the participation of two of the biggest players in the market, Apple and Google, ESRB ratings won't be appearing on your non-Windows smartphone any time soon.
Still, the ESRB's intentions are in the right place. Because the volume of mobile games is significantly larger than traditional console games, the ratings process will differ on phones. Instead of having the ESRB review each game, developers will simply complete a multiple choice questionnaire that will determine the appropriate rating for the game. "Applications are rated within seconds," the ESRB promises, and will be a "convenient, cost-free process" for developers.
In order to prevent abuse of the system, the ratings board will "routinely test the most popular applications and closely monitor consumer complaints." It notes that "if an inappropriate rating is found to have been assigned, ESRB will promptly adjust the rating."