The war between the British Board of Film Classification and the Pan-European Game Information system over UK game ratings comes to an end today, with PEGI to act as the UK's sole age rating system.
The war has been long and hard, with the BBFC contending that a local board would be more in-tune with the needs of Britain's children, and the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) contending that all of Europe should be governed by the PEGI system for the sake of presenting clear, uniform ratings across the continent. The decision came today from the UK's Department of Culture, Media and Sport, after poring over the Byron Review for ages.
ELSPA was understandably pleased with the decision, issuing the following formal statement from its Director General, Mike Rawlinson:
"The Government has made absolutely the right decision for child safety. By choosing PEGI as the single classification system in the UK, British children will now get the best possible protection when playing videogames either on a console or on the internet. Parents can be assured that they will have access to clear, uniform ratings on games and an accurate understanding of game content.
Today's decision will ensure that games ratings stay relevant and adapt to the changing nature of videogames for many years to come. Retailers will now have clear, legal backing to help them prevent access to unsuitable content by children.
We will work closely with the Government, the Video Standards Council and the BBFC to ensure a smooth and rapid transition to this new ratings system."
The BBFC issued its own statement following the decision, basically saying that they'd support the decision but don't necessarily like it.
"We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.
"The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments."
Following those comments, ELSPA returned with a press release detailing comments from various members of the industry, showing off the fact that the PEGI system is loved and the BBFC should cry more. Here are said comments:
David Yarnton, UK General Manager, Nintendo, said: "The Government has made the right decision. The PEGI age rating system is right for the protection of children as it is designed specifically for games and interactive content.
"As a global company we welcome the decision as mature and intelligent as it works across some 30 international territories."
Rob Cooper, Managing Director, Ubisoft UK, said: "The adoption of PEGI as the rating system for games is a good decision. The PEGI system is future-proof, delivering effective child protection now and in the future. PEGI Online is a key component of the system, ensuring that the government does not have to re-assess the entire system once again in 12 months time."
Mike Hayes, President and CEO, Sega Europe, said: "This is an important decision for the UK public. PEGI is the only system that has the power to prevent games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children."
Keith Ramsdale, Vice President and General Manager, EA UK, Ireland and Nordics, said: ‘"We welcome the government's decision. PEGI is the right choice to protect children from inappropriate gaming content, and best suited to continue to do so in the future as interactive entertainment moves increasingly online.
"We applaud this collaboration between government and industry to find the best solution for consumers and for the UK marketplace."
Andy Payne, Managing Director, Mastertronic Group Ltd and Chairman, ELSPA, said: "This is the right decision for the UK consumer. The PEGI system is specifically built for interactive content both on and offline and is recognised throughout Europe. In a connected digital world, implementing age rating standards that are understood across traditional frontiers will protect children from unsuitable content and help to educate parents at the same time."
Neil Thompson, Senior Regional Director UK & Ireland Entertainment & Devices Division, Microsoft, said "This is the right decision, the most important issue to be considered is that of child safety. A single PEGI system is by far the best means of promoting child safety; given the fact that PEGI is used for offline and online games in 29 countries across Europe. In a globalised market where children can play video games online across borders, this decision will provide clarity and consistency in deciding what games are appropriate for children and in enforcing those decisions – now and in the future".
So everyone is happy, with the possible exception of the British Board of Film Classification, who are probably penciling in several sulking sessions to take place over the following weeks. Meanwhile, at ELSPA, it's pizza party time!