Starting from today, a new computer automated process will assign ratings to certain online games based on the results of a digital questionnaire filled out by each game’s publisher.

Earlier ESRB classifiers watched a DVD of the game’s most offensive content to suggest the most appropriate rating and when the game is ready for release, the publisher sends a final version of the game to ESRB, which is played by an in-house personnel randomly in order to ensure the publisher’s statement. Penalties will apply for any publishers proven to have been less than honest in their self-evaluations.

For now, the new system will only be applied to games released online via Xbox Live, PSN and the Wii/DSi Shops. The shift to automated rating process may be due to the workload ESRB is facing and of course this will reduce it a little.

As stated in a draft of the board’s news release, “All games rated via this new process will be tested by E.S.R.B. staff shortly after they are made publicly available to verify that disclosure was complete and accurate.”
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