ESRB reins in premature game leaks

Finding out about upcoming unannounced games via the Entertainment Software Rating Board's online database is about to get a bit tougher, Next Gen has learned.

Curious web-goers often scour the ESRB's content rating listings in order to find evidence of upcoming unannounced titles. For example, earlier this year, the ESRB rated and listed the cult favorite Earthbound for Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console, sending fans into a dizzied state of euphoria.

But a publisher contact forwarded Next Gen editors a memo from the ESRB on Thursday outlining a new policy that will crack down on early reveals of unreleased games on the organization's website.

A new functionality in the ESRB's online submission form will allow publishers to choose a date when a title is eligible to be uploaded on the ratings website.

The ESRB said in its memo that the move was made at the request of publishers, who were probably irked when a game was announced outside of their marketing schedule.

Still the ESRB doesn't want the new option to hinder consumers' ability to learn about game ratings.

"Unless there are specific concerns regarding premature disclosure of a title, we expect this field to be left blank," the memo reads.

"...While we recognize some publishers have concerns regarding earlier-than-desired 'announcements' of product on our website, the ESRB system will not work for consumers if publishers arbitrarily select dates bearing no reasonable relationship to consumer interest in the product."

If the space is left blank, the game and its rating will be eligible to post on ESRB's site 30 days after it has been rated.

The ESRB offered the following guidelines for using the embargo option. From the memo:

Publishers who have a legitimate basis for utilizing this field should select a date that coincides with the earliest of the following:

* Product Marketing/Announcements, if any
* Ship Date, for physical product
* Product Availability, for downloadable content without any prior announcement

Courtesy of Next Gen.

Jun 20, 2008