Playing Monopoly…PEGI ratings come at an expensive price that is suffocating smaller games producers

Posted: 4 May, 2014 in PEGI European Games Ratings
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Read more UK Games Censor News at MelonFarmers.co.uk

tiga logo TIGA, the network for game developers and digital publishers, has written an open letter toPEGI, the European game content rating system, calling for urgent reform of its pricing policy, which charges small games businesses unreasonably high and repetitious fees.TIGA has acted in response to complaints from its members aboutPEGI’s pricing policy.At present, PEGI’s policy is to charge a developer a fee for content rating every time it launches a game on a different console platform (e.g. Play Station 4, Play Station Vita, Xbox One, the Wii U, etc), even if the content is exactly the same. This is excessive and unreasonable.TIGA recommends that the fee for age rating the same game content for different platforms should be waived entirely.

TIGA has warned the Netherlands based organisation that its approach risks hurting start-ups and small independent developers. While PEGI’s pricing policy can impose costs potentially running into thousands of euros on UK and European developers, American game developers do not have to pay their equivalent ratings body, the ESRB, anything at all for rating identical content on additional platforms.

As of 1st of July 2014, PEGI will effectively have three pricing tiers:

  • The lowest, for online or downloadable games only which must be under 250mb, charges EUR260 for certification, and the same again for each additional platform even if the content is the same.
  • The middle tier is for games larger than 250mb, with a production budget of less than EUR200,000 and charges EUR1,155 for certification and EUR1,050 for each additional platform, again even if the content is unchanged.
  • The highest tier is for games with a budget larger than EUR200,000 and charges EUR2,100 for certification and EUR1,050 for each additional platform, even if the content is exactly the same.

To give one example, from the beginning of July 2014, the ratings fee for a Lower Development Cost Product (where the game’s budget is less that EUR200,000) is EUR1,155 in the first instance and EUR1,050 for each additional platform thereafter. So if an indie developer was to launch the same game with exactly the same content on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PS Vita, they would be looking at a ratings bill of EUR3,255. PEGI’s pricing policy imposes disproportionate costs on indie developers pursuing a multi-platform strategy.

The PEGI content ratings system should be focused on providing information to consumers and protecting vulnerable consumers from accessing inappropriate content. It should not be burdening small games businesses with excessive costs. Many small development businesses operate on a knife-edge and struggle to conserve every pound or euro they can in order to stay in business.

TIGA further suggests that PEGI examines the potential for delivering its rating system more efficiently. At present, PEGI carries out the rating process repeatedly for games on multiple platforms. TIGA suggests that instead developers could be offered the opportunity to sign a legally binding document stating the game content is identical. This would allow PEGI to provide a single multi-platform age rating, which in turn would save PEGI’s time and indie developers’ money. TIGA would be happy to work with one of its members, Stevens & Bolton LLP to draft this legally binding agreement and make it available for free to indie developers.

Dr. Richard Wilson, CEO, TIGA, comments:

The majority of UK and European games developers operate small studios where financial resources are limited and costs need to be kept to a minimum.

TIGA’s policy is to strengthen the game development and digital publishing sector, in particular by saving games businesses money and improving their access to finance. PEGI’s pricing policy imposes potentially damaging and unreasonably high fees, which have a disproportionate impact on small games businesses. It cannot be right to charge a developer a fee for content rating every time it launches a game on a different console platform even if the content is exactly the same.

Significantly, US developers do not have to pay their equivalent ratings body, the ESRB, anything at all for rating identical content on additional platforms. Once again, UK and European developers are being put at a disadvantage. If the UK and European development sector is to thrive then we need a pricing policy from PEGI which is helpful, not a hindrance; is proportionate, not punitive; and is equitable, not exorbitant.

TIGA is approaching PEGI to find a solution that fairly represents the interests of developers, digital publishers and consumers across Europe.

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