The Entertainment Software Rating Board — the group responsible for the age ratings featured on video games in North America — has announced that it's expanding its reach to mobile. Its ratings will be featured on games on Google Play starting in the coming weeks.
Google Play will utilize a relatively new system known as the International Age Rating Coalition, or IARC. The IARC is a partnership between the ESRB and other ratings groups, including PEGI in Europe, in order to create "a unified process that simultaneously generates ratings for multiple territories while preserving each of their distinct cultural standards." It was designed specifically for digital stores , where the flood of new submissions can make age ratings difficult. Developers simply fill out a questionnaire when submitting games in order to create an age rating for multiple regions. The system has been in the works since late 2013. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's digital game stores will start using the ratings in the future as well, though there's currently no word on whether other big name players, most notably Apple, plan to adopt IARC ratings.
"It is encouraging that digital storefronts recognize the benefits of this groundbreaking initiative," says ESRB president Patricia Vance. Prior to today, stores like Google Play and the App Store used their own unique systems for applying age ratings to games and other apps. In addition to adopting IARC ratings, Google also announced today that it will be instating a new manual review process for Android apps in order to weed out unwanted apps and game clones before they hit the store.