Game Ratings Hurt Sales
If you’ve spent any amount of time in the gaming world, chances are you’ve heard of game developer Rockstar and its reputation for churning out games that make mothers everywhere bite their nails. Many of its games contain violence, sex or sexual themes. Its ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series is notorious for sparking controversy.
Rockstar’s latest game, ‘Manhunt 2,’ was released recently, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board plastered a Mature rating on it. The ESRB is the group in charge of rating games in America, much like movies are rated PG or R by the Motion Picture Association of America.
According to the ESRB, a Mature-rated game includes content that is suitable only for people 17 and older, as it may contain heavy violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
‘Manhunt 2’ is no doubt a very violent game. It focuses on a man who inexplicably wakes up in an insane asylum and is apparently being hunted for sport, forcing him to run for his life and murder anyone in his way. The game features some particularly gruesome scenes, such as pushing a body into a junk cuber, and many people have demanded that it receive the more-restrictive AO, or ‘Adults Only,’ rating.
An AO rating usually indicates long scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and uncensored nudity. The AO rating is not something any game developer aims to achieve; it’s meant to limit consumer access to the game so that it doesn’t fall into the hands of children.
More than that, it’s stuck right above the Mature rating to limit to how much violence and sex developers choose to put in their games, as no developer wants to earn an AO.
Many companies have strict policies about this rating. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all refuse to license AO-rated games for their game consoles. Certain retail stores such as Wal-Mart will not allow AO games on their shelves. Clearly, such a rating can be crippling to a game’s sales.
The ESRB did indeed review the game a second time and, due either to public pressure or additional insight, decided to garnish ‘Manhunt 2’ with an AO rating. This automatically prevented its release for the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 2, X-Box 360 and Playstation Portable. After two weeks of tweaking and reducing, Rockstar cut out enough graphic content