October 29, 2012
Microsoft Europe Reverses Adult Game Restrictions For Windows 8
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Gamers are often early adopters when Windows puts out a new operating system. The new OS often brings with it faster speeds, enhanced graphics and richer sound; all the elements that make for better gameplay. A ban on games with a mature rating in the European Windows 8 store may have discouraged gamers from upgrading PCs, tablets and other devices.
That is, until Microsoft decided to lift the ban and allow games such as Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Skyrim and others to appear in the Windows 8 store, the official outlet for programs that Microsoft has tested to ensure compatibility.
Microsoft was initially blocking games rated PEGI 18 from the European Windows 8 store. The rating is based on the Pan European Game Information system, which places ratings on games based on content in a manner similar to the voluntary U.S. game ratings placed by the ESRB, or movie ratings.
The PEGI 18 rating is reserved for mature-themed games, and can only be purchased by adults age 18 or over. The U.S. has two equivalent ratings: M for mature, which is sold only to those 17 and older; and AO for Adults Only, which can only be purchased by those age 18 and older.
Placing a ban on PEGI 18 games by Windows 8 for the European market means that titles that fall under that rating will not be tested, and therefore cannot be verified for compatibility with Windows 8.
Microsoft reversed the ban, acknowledging that the action was due to a misunderstanding of the differences between the PEGI and ESRB ratings. "It basically ends up disqualifying games that would be ESRB Mature," Gizmodo quoted Antoine Leblond, Microsoft corporate vice president of web services, in an article.
The new policy caused Microsoft to update its Windows Store guidelines to allow for ESRB and PEGI rated games to be included in the store. The initial rules followed ESRB ratings, and didn't recognize the PEGI rating system. It saw games with a PEGI rating as equivalent to films with adult content such as porn.
"The problem for the Windows Store came because Europe uses the PEGI rating system. The more mature ratings for that system are PEGI 16 and PEGI 18. Microsoft blocked PEGI 18, though, it includes not just all of the Adult-rated ESRB games, but also a bunch of games that would rate as Mature stateside," Gizmodo said in an article.
The oversight takes games including Skyrim, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Assassin's Creed and the Mass Effect series off the virtual shelves, which would affect sales for game publishers as well as for Microsoft.
With the ban lifted, computer game publishers can get an official nod from Microsoft on its popular games, and therefore gamers will be more inclined to spend the money upgrading their gaming PCs, and possibly add a tablet to the mix. A ban on such games - which wouldn't make the games unavailable, but would not allow publishers to guarantee compatibility with Windows 8 - might deter an audience that Microsoft needs to build its installed base of Windows 8 PCs and devices.
Some countries in Europe have a squeamish attitude toward video games, and could have caused Microsoft to initially ban mature-rated games. In Germany, blood is banned from games and publishers often strip blood spatter and certain depictions of gore from games. Many gamers circumvent those restrictions by installing a "blood patch" or other modifications that add elements back into the game, which are part of the commercial release of games in the U.S. and other countries.