The UK government has published its action plan for changes to the videogame classification system. Taking on board recommendations made by March’s Byron Review, Whitehall has pledged that a four-month public consultation period will take place from July with games publishers. Proposals will be pushed through as early as next year.
Currently, the industry regulates itself under the Pan European Game Information age rating system (PEGI). The PEGI system provides a simple guideline for parents who are worried about the games their children play. Software is categorised by the genre of game and the age rating. British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) examines any games that would have an 18 certificate and contains “human sexual activity” or “gross violence”. Each year the industry submits around 250 games for review by the BBFC.
However, the plans have been met with concern by some areas of the videogames industry. Several games publishers including EA, the world’s largest games publisher, and Microsoft have suggested that the BBFC and the UK government have shown scant interest in the needs of the videogames industry.
EA, which publishes around one in every five games sold in the UK has called for the legal enforcement of the European-wide PEGI rating system as opposed to one proposed by Byron and the BBFC. The publisher argues that the BBFC proposal is unworkable due to the increasing number of games that offer downloadable content not included in the original purchase.
“What we need is a single system. There are some games that are already rated at 18 on the current system but would be at 15 on the new cinema model. What we do need is legal enforcement of the PEGI standard, because now if a child of 12 wants to buy a 16-plus game, the retailer has to sell it to them,” said Keith Ramsdale, vice-president and general manager of EA UK.
EA has highlighted how release dates would be delayed in the UK by “weeks, not days”.