Playing the Suffocation Game…PEGI classification fees are proving extortionate for small games developers

Posted: 17 September, 2015 in PEGI European Games Ratings
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Read more UK Games Censor News at MelonFarmers.co.uk

PEGI logo Gamasutra cites small game developers speaking about the PEGI games classification group:

We have to work with them, and they have some crazy policies that are not cool for indies, he told me. You can’t put your game on an Xbox or PlayStation without a PEGI rating, and they charge thousands of dollars.

By comparison, getting the game ESRB-rated so the game could be sold in the U.S. costs nothing; the ESRB rolled out a free, streamlined voluntary rating service to digital platforms years ago.

PEGI designed its licensing fee scheme for digital games based on how it’s been rating physical video game releases since 2003: with the expectation that publishers would foot the bill. But the rise of self-publishing has created situations where the biggest line item on a small developer’s budget may well be ratings board licensing fees. That in turn is putting pressure on indies not to release their games in Europe on platforms that require PEGI ratings, i.e. Xbox Games Store, Sony’s PSN and Nintendo’s eShop. Indies are paying roughly $300-$1,000 per platform for a PEGI rating

PEGI knows this. It’s been taking fire on this front from members of the European game industry for some time (UK game industry trade body TIGA called on PEGI last year to reform what it called unreasonably high and repetitious fees ) and when I sat down with agency communications manager Dirk Bosmans at Gamescom last month, he tried to offer both an explanation and the promise of a near future where no indie will have to pay for a rating on a Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo platform ever again.

But first, he acknowledged PEGI’s fees are an outdated relic of the way the video game industry used to operate. They’re also the primary thing keeping PEGI in business. PEGI knows this is a problem, but it wants to maintain income

Our money comes from fees that publishers pay to get a ratings license…that’s basically our only source of income. When we were at the height of the console cycle, there were lots of games. That’s come down in the past few years, so obviously our income is shrinking.

A couple of years ago, if you’d asked me [whether PEGI fees have a chilling effect on European game releases], the answer probably would have been no, because in order to release a game in a box on a shelf you’d need a lot of funds. But because digital is so much more accessible, it’s much easier to release a game, but we still charge the same.

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