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ESRB Tells Browser Game to Quit Bragging That It Was Rated AO

Illustration for article titled ESRB Tells Browser Game to Quit Bragging That It Was Rated AO

The ESRB has asked the Chinese maker of a browser-based game to quit advertising it as rated Adults Only, reports GamesIndustry.biz, largely because the game has never been rated by the ESRB.

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Even if it had, Wartune would likely run afoul of ESRB policies against making a marketing spectacle of acquiring such a notorious rating (only 32 titles have gotten AO in the rating's 19-year history.)

Ads for the game, running on Google's AdSense network, tout it as an "18+ game" in type much larger than the game's logo, with scantily clad nymphs and demons offering saucy come-ons like "You deserve an orgy today." (Though when I created an account to play it, I never ran through any age-gate or verification. I did not participate in any orgies, either, but then, I only advanced to level 2.)

The AO rating icon, like every rating given out by the ESRB, is trademarked. Wartune, a turn-based RPG whose visual themes borrow, let's say, heavily from World of Warcraft and Diablo, is hosted at several browser gaming sites but is produced and marketed by Hong Kong-based R2 Games.

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I sent questions—specifically, what content in Wartune deserves a self-bestowed AO?—to an R2 press inquiry email address but have not yet heard back. Any answers or comments will be updated here.

Wartune Advertising Runs Afoul of ESRB [GamesIndustry.biz]

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DISCUSSION

This sort of advertising is disturbing on two levels (running on the assumption that this advertising campaign is primarily targeted at heterosexual males, in the interest of full disclosure):

The first—and most egregious—is that the marketing department responsible for said advertising is clearly operating under the implicit assumption that their target audience is easily led by sexual material. Further, advertising with the line, "You deserve an orgy today," not only degrades the potential consumer by assuming they'll respond to the, "Oh god, I might get laid," line of thinking—it implies pretty directly that said consumer has limited (if any) access to real-world sex, which is one of the oldest (and most inaccurate) stereotypes regarding gamers/gamer culture out there.

The second problem is that for all the insulting nature of the implied assumptions the adverts themselves are making, they're probably not that far off target—at least in terms of -some- of their consumer base.

Sad.