This summer, Nintendo will ship software for the Nintendo DS that's missing something seen on every other game the company publishes—a rating from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. 100 Classic Books is rated.... nothing.
The software's box art states, instead of showcasing an ESRB rating, "This product does not require age classification." That's a rare sight.
It is, after all, simply a collection of novels and plays from William Shakespeare, Jules Verne, Jane Austen, Mark Twain and others with limited interactivity. 100 Classic Books is little more than an ereader for the Nintendo DS platform. Its interactivity is limited to adjusting the size of text, placing bookmarks and downloading new content from Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection service.
As the ESRB notes on its official FAQ, the rating system is voluntary, "although virtually all games that are sold at retail in the U.S. and Canada are rated by the ESRB." 100 Classic Books, more of a "non-game" than any other released on the DS, is the rare exception.
Of course, here's the one catch that typically prevents unrated games from appearing on store shelves and on the console platforms you play, according to the ESRB: "Many retailers, including most major chains, have policies to only stock or sell games that carry an ESRB rating, and most console manufacturers will only permit games that have been rated by ESRB to be published for their platforms."
The collection has already been released in Europe and Australia, with the box art similarly absent in ratings from local classification entities.
The content in 100 Classic Books is the kind of fare one would expect to read in grade school and junior high, generally safe stuff like Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, the kind of E-rated stuff that can be chalked up to "comic mischief."
But some of the included works from Shakespeare, which touch on darker themes like murder, incest, and suicide—hardly Manhunt 2-caliber content—veer toward the less E-rated. We've asked the fine folks at Nintendo how abridged (if at all) the books from Harper Collins are, just out of curiosity's sake.
Update: Nintendo says "All the books are the complete, unabridged editions." The company also points out that 100 Classic Books is not the first Nintendo game released on the Nintendo DS platform to not carry an ESRB rating. Some DSiWare titles, like the Photo Clock, that don't feature video game elements go unrated.