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ESRB President Discusses AO Ratings, “Good for the System”

April 10, 2012 Written by Alex Osborn

While the ESRB has a rating system that goes all the way up to AO (Adults Only), we never see games make it to retail with this ominous tag because stores aren’t willing to carry this type of content. With the rise of digital distribution and the cutting out the need for a middleman, there’s a good chance we’ll see more AO rated games, something the president of the ESRB believes is “good for the system.”

In an interview with Gamasutra, when the topic of AO rated games was brought up, ESRB president Patricia Vance didn’t shy away from this particularly controversial talking point. She pointed out that the average consumer immediately associates this rating with sexual content, while ultra-violent content can merit an AO as well.

You know up to this point most people associate AO with sexual content. We’ve actually assigned AO ratings for violent content as well; it’s just that most of the time that product gets edited or changed in order to warrant an M rating, so you never see it in the market.

With regard to the possibility that we’ll see an influx of more AO rated games as digital distribution becomes more and more relevant, Vance was particularly optimistic towards the idea, sharing her belief that more of these games would in fact be a positive thing for the industry.

But yeah, it’s very possible that there will be greater acceptance of an AO rating going forward. And by the way, I think that would be a good thing for the system. It’s very frustrating that publishers can’t release AO product, in many cases.

Do you agree with Vance that an increase in Adult Only content would be beneficial for the video game industry? Let us know in the comments below.