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Default Next Gen - M-Rated Games Rapidly Declining

February 7th, 2008, 21:57
Next-Gen has coverage of a newsletter sent out by the ESRB pointing out that the number of M-rated games has halved over the last two years:
In a winter newsletter, Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), said that the amount of Mature-rated titles is declining each year despite the fact that more and more games are being released.
“The ESRB also had the biggest year ever in 2007, having assigned 1,563 ratings, a 22% increase over the prior year. And, as you'll see below, 94% of the ratings we assigned were for games appropriate for ages 13 or younger. It's never been easier to find family-friendly games that everyone can play together.
“While a handful of M-rated titles tend to garner a majority of media attention, the E (Everyone 6+) rating category continues to dominate. The E category saw the largest increase over last year, accounting for nearly 60% of ratings assigned overall.
“The M (Mature 17+) category represented 6% of the overall ratings assigned, down from 8% in 2006 and 12% in 2005.
More information.

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February 7th, 2008, 21:57
I would still be very interested to see how that correlates to game sales.

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February 7th, 2008, 23:00
What about the AO ratings?

Isn't the dwindle in M titles due to some titles being rebranded to AO titles?
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February 7th, 2008, 23:04
I'm not surprised at all. Not even the tiniest bit.

This all fits absolutely perfectly into my impression to where the gaming market goes : A younger and/or undemanding audience ("casual games").

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February 8th, 2008, 00:47
Someone correct me if I'm mistaken in my interpretation of this, but aren't they skewing the facts a bit? They're speaking about statistics here, percents to be precise, not pure numbers. As such, the INCREASE in games being released is a factor that must be taken into consideration, not discarded under the appellation of "despite the fact."
To clarify, let's say last year 1,000 games were released. Of these, if eighty were given a M-rating, that would be 8% of all games. If 1,563 games (as they said) truly were released in 2007 and, yet again, eighty were given M-ratings, that statistic would drop to roughly 5%. They could then say, as they are, that the "number of M-rated games has decreased" without any such thing actually happening!
See what I'm getting at here? Yes, the PERCENT decreased, but that doesn't mean the NUMBER did. The amount of overall games released actually INCREASED, with a heavy emphasis on "casual" games (which are catered to family-friendly environments, hence given an E-rating) but that does not mean the amount of M-rated games decreased.
Personally, I would like to see the raw figures in pure numbers. That is, how MANY M-rated games were released in each year, not the floating percent.
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February 8th, 2008, 06:03
I agree with themadhatter. Percentages are far to often misunderstood and used to misinform. I can not help but wonder if it is an intentional attempt at downplaying m rated games by numeric smoke and mirrors.
My first thought was that this was playing into the stereotype that games are for kids. If more and more games continue to arrive in the market aimed at the young or casual the ability of games to be seen as a serious art form and endeavor is lessoned. Games already have too many people that view them as something for the immature or children (admittedly this is lower now then when I was a kid), and perhaps a growing market in these areas will affect and reinforce that perception.
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February 8th, 2008, 08:51
Geez, if you guys are worried about smoke and mirrors, why don't you go look at the numbers?

So, "pure numbers":

2005, 1133 games rated by the ESRB, 12% "M" = 136
2007, 1563 games rated by the ESRB, 6% "M" = 94

Looks like a significant decline to me in a mere two years.

Adding the evil percentages back, the number of rated games increased 38% from 2005 to 2007 but the actual number of "M" games declined 31% in the same period — not as a fraction of the whole — just directly comparing the actual number of "M" games.

A 31% decline in the face of 38% industry growth seems pretty big to me. It's clear publishers are (currently) abandoning mature games in favour of E and T ratings. I certainly don't think a game needs to be mature to be good but I would suggest publishers are moving rapidly to broad/casual markets, so those of us who like "hardcore" games will be marginalised.

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February 8th, 2008, 11:05
Thank you, Dhruin. The sarcasm about "evil" percentages was a bit over-the-top - considering my point, as illystriel pointed out, was merely that using such statistics can be misinforming - but I appreciate you adding the pertinent facts to support their claim.
It would be interesting if the M-ratings were broken down according to the developing outfit as well. You wouldn't happen to have those figures, would you? I imagine Take-Two likely leads the pack in that regard.
Best of luck…
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February 8th, 2008, 11:39
Games are released on multiple platforms so that 30 game difference could actually be only a 10 or round about there difference.

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February 8th, 2008, 12:04
Fair enough - apologies for the sarcasm. The data is at the ESRB site, however, for anyone who wants to dig through it.

There are 1151 "M" games listed in their database but it doesn't break down by publisher. You can search by publisher but I'm not sure how accurate that is…seems to work OK, though.

THQ - 17
EA - 45
Vivendi - 24
Ubisoft - 22
Activision - 52

…but I don't think that data has much value as it stands. You'd need to look at the breakdown by year to see if a particular publisher was accelerating or declining and knowing the ratio of "M" to other categories would be useful. EA and Activision have probably put out more M games simply because they are bigger.

@bjon45, their database shows each title as a single entry with all platforms listed together, which leads me to assume the different platforms are not counted as separate games. However, I can't see anything that definitely proves that, so you could be right.

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February 8th, 2008, 12:07
What platforms are included in these numbers?

I mean, if we're only talking about stationary appliances (Xbox360, PS2/3, Wii, PC) then the numbers are terrifying indeed but if handheld devices are counted as well (NDS, PSP, etc) then it makes more sense because, AFAIK, the numbers of M+ rated games on handhelds are very limited (I'm sure our resident handheld guru, Mike, will correct me if I'm wrong )

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February 8th, 2008, 13:07
Is the number of M-rated games an indicator of the company's philosophy ?

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February 8th, 2008, 15:27
Are there many (any?) good games that were actually better because they were M games? Significantly enough that it mattered? Do numbers of people buy games because they are M rated instead of T?
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February 8th, 2008, 15:47
Originally Posted by fatBastard() View Post
What platforms are included in these numbers?

I mean, if we're only talking about stationary appliances (Xbox360, PS2/3, Wii, PC) then the numbers are terrifying indeed but if handheld devices are counted as well (NDS, PSP, etc) then it makes more sense because, AFAIK, the numbers of M+ rated games on handhelds are very limited (I'm sure our resident handheld guru, Mike, will correct me if I'm wrong )
The Wii and DS are heavily weighted towards E - E-10+ ratings, with many good T games and some good M games as well. The PSP centers around T, with good games at M and E-10+ as well.

It is interesting that many games in the handheld space end up rated lower than the PC/console version - Call of Duty 4, for example. This is largely due to technical capabilities.

BillSeurer - I would say that largely companies like to push T games since it has become harder for kids to buy M games and parents are more wary. But there is also some 'cred' associated with M ratings for some people. There are games that go out of their way to earn the rating - Prey, Soldier of Fortune, Witcher, etc - but many games could easily lose a few words / body parts / gore and go from M to T without losing anything of substance.

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February 8th, 2008, 16:05
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
Are there many (any?) good games that were actually better because they were M games? Significantly enough that it mattered? Do numbers of people buy games because they are M rated instead of T?
Were system shock/fallout games rated T or M? Im pretty sure atleast fallout was M.
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February 8th, 2008, 17:15
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
Are there many (any?) good games that were actually better because they were M games? Significantly enough that it mattered? Do numbers of people buy games because they are M rated instead of T?
Yes.

At least, that's what one focus group said in a study discussed in an internal design meeting:

"If this were released as a T game, I would be sure that it had been neutered, and it would affect my decision to buy it."
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February 8th, 2008, 18:08
So far about 4 or 5 of the last few games released that interested me I refused to buy because of the M rating. It seems like nearly every major RPG being released these days is an M rated game.

I've been thinking of writing an opinion piece on the frustration I have with this trend but I suspect it would just get backlash. And I am really not a fan of creating controversy.

Its a lot for me just to post on this news bit.

Dhruin, do you have stats on RPG's and the number of these that were RPG's?

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February 8th, 2008, 18:44
As far as I'm concerned it is not so much that T rated, or lower, games are necessarily bad, far from it. Psychonauts was a great game and all … but I'm almost 35 years old and I wouldn't want ALL my games to be about a bunch of kids or be about teenage related issues.

However, as soon as you get nearer adult issues (or issues that the Americans consider adult even though the rest of the world doesn't), even though it is strictly in terms of narrative, there is only so much you can do before a M rating is slapped on the box.

The ridiculous part is that every test/survey/poll taken shows that the average gamer is NOT a teenager, but rather a young man around 30, but the gaming industry has yet to be taken serious in the media, so gaming is still considered primarily for kids. And so the focus centers on T rated games … *sheesh*

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February 8th, 2008, 19:35
What I just asked myself (yes, I often ask myself things ) is:

In what does a game mostly consist of that has an M rating ?

I mean - M-rating - why ? Based on which game elements.

Of course games like Age of Conan would surely get this rating … But what else ? Is there anything beyond decapitated heads and nipples ?

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February 8th, 2008, 20:12
I don't find the fact that there are less M rated games being released a worrying thing at all, most of my favorite games have a 12+ (teen) rating.
I love games like NWN, KoTOR and Morrowind. At the moment I'm replaying Icewind Dale 2, which has that rating as well. Non of those games strikes me as 'kiddie' games, it just means the content isn't as dark or as expicit as that of M rated games which suits me just fine.
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