ESRB Scolds Wartune For Fake AO Rating

ESRB Scolds Wartune For Fake AO Rating

Wartune AO ad

The ESRB says it's against the rules to "glamorize" a game's rating in ads, and besides, Wartune isn't rated AO anyway.

If you've seen ads for the online game Wartune kicking around, there's a pretty good chance you've noticed the AO (Adults Only 18+) ESRB labels prominently displayed on them as well. It's unusual - AO is the white tiger of videogame ratings, and most game makers will jump through hoops to avoid it - but perhaps even stranger is that the ESRB has told the game's publisher to get rid of them.

There are actually two very practical reasons for this. First, ESRB rules state that advertising for a game may not "glamorize or exploit" its rating; second, and more importantly, Wartune isn't actually rated AO, or anything else, by the ESRB.

"We have advised the game's publisher that they must discontinue their unauthorized use of our AO rating icon in its marketing," an ESRB rep told GamesIndustry. "While it's fairly rare for a game to self-apply a rating we will always move quickly to address the issue."

In retrospect, it's a little surprising that more online games don't pull this kind of stunt. Nothing sells like sex, after all, and while an AO sticker is the kiss of death for a box that needs to sit on a store shelf, for web-based online titles that don't rely on the approval of a central distributor it's a bright, flashing beacon that's almost purpose-built to attract a particular demographic.

The ESRB also pointed out that any developer serious about using its ratings for online-only games can take advantage of its free "Digital Rating Service."

Source: GamesIndustry

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So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

I am eagerly awaiting the escapists review.

Hell, give it to Yahtzee, might cheer the bugger up.

I can understand them not being allowed to pretend to have a rating that they do not, but I cannot understand why they are not allowed to "glamorise" the rating if they do have it.

As RatherDull said:

RatherDull:
So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

Pointing out that your game is kid friendly, should surely not be an issue?

Maybe they just want to stay neutral no matter what side they stay on.

Can anyone attempt that free digital rating system, or would you have to be the developer of said game?

There's a lot of weird shit I'd love to see rated, and I'm not talking about porn.

Lemme guess it's made by the same company who flooded the internet with that other game that Plants VS Zombies made fun of.

Legion:
I can understand them not being allowed to pretend to have a rating that they do not, but I cannot understand why they are not allowed to "glamorise" the rating if they do have it.

As RatherDull said:

RatherDull:
So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

Pointing out that your game is kid friendly, should surely not be an issue?

They're just jelly because they didn't get to play test it first.

Legion:
I can understand them not being allowed to pretend to have a rating that they do not, but I cannot understand why they are not allowed to "glamorise" the rating if they do have it.

As RatherDull said:

RatherDull:
So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

Pointing out that your game is kid friendly, should surely not be an issue?

I'd say glamorizing would be making your rating out to be better than the others, especially using embellished facts.

Saying your game is kid friendly would be fine. Saying your game is one of the few that doesn't turn children into violent murdering psychopaths, because it's got an all ages rating, would not be.

Saying your game has adult content would also be fine. Saying your game is of the only type that can deliver truly captivating graphics, because it's got an adult-only rating, would not be.

An ESRB rating's supposed to be purely informative and belongs to the ESRB. It's not supposed be an advertisement. Both because that defeats the purpose, advertisements have the purpose of making sales not of informing the customer. And also because they don't belong to the publisher/developer, it's like using someone else's work to advertise your game.

As someone who is lvl 50 in wartune, the game has NO adult content in it whatsoever.

Houseman:
As someone who is lvl 50 in wartune, the game has NO adult content in it whatsoever.

As with the case of that Ebony Online game -- I am not shocked at all.

kurupt87:
I am eagerly awaiting the escapists review.

Hell, give it to Yahtzee, might cheer the bugger up.

Wartune is one of those godawful "free-to-play", click-and-wait fantasy "games" that is synonymous with Facebook. Rather than being an actual good game that makes people want to buy extra content, it instead sells convenience at a stupidly inflated price. The game itself is very hands-off and you're unable to progress unless you wait for units to train and buildings to upgrade in stupidly slow real time stretching hours and maybe even days. Like other games of its type, the interface is stupidly crowded and convoluted to the point of frustration.

It tries to disguise a lack of content by giving a ton of shallow rewards for coming back on a daily basis and plastering the worst kind of male-gaze fantasy artwork you've seen a million times on old fantasy paperbacks. Ironically, despite buying into gender stereotyping wholesale, the developers seem to conveniently ignore the stereotype of bored housewives playing crap like this instead of pre-teen boys looking for mediocre softcore fantasy porn.

But don't take my word for it. You can see it here.

AlexanderPeregrine:

kurupt87:
I am eagerly awaiting the escapists review.

Hell, give it to Yahtzee, might cheer the bugger up.

Wartune is one of those godawful "free-to-play", click-and-wait fantasy "games" that is synonymous with Facebook. Rather than being an actual good game that makes people want to buy extra content, it instead sells convenience at a stupidly inflated price. The game itself is very hands-off and you're unable to progress unless you wait for units to train and buildings to upgrade in stupidly slow real time stretching hours and maybe even days. Like other games of its type, the interface is stupidly crowded and convoluted to the point of frustration.

It tries to disguise a lack of content by giving a ton of shallow rewards for coming back on a daily basis and plastering the worst kind of male-gaze fantasy artwork you've seen a million times on old fantasy paperbacks. Ironically, despite buying into gender stereotyping wholesale, the developers seem to conveniently ignore the stereotype of bored housewives playing crap like this instead of pre-teen boys looking for mediocre softcore fantasy porn.

But don't take my word for it. You can see it here.

Hah, assumed it was a porn game. I am disappoint.

RatherDull:
So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

Of course, they didn't get the rating in the first place, so it wouldn't be "either."

However, the "glamorize" bit confuses me, as a lot of games market themselves as family friendly or horribly violent.

I had to play Wartune a bit a month or so back (don't ask). Needless to say, these new ads made me wonder if I happened to miss something, or they're just doing the classic Evony trick. The scary thing is that it's the exact same genre as Evony.

I'd like to see pasta sauce marketed like this. "Cook discreetly at home, my lord."

Andy Chalk:
AO is the white tiger of videogame ratings, and most game makers will jump through hoops to avoid it

I've suddenly got a vision of AO games being sold in a back alley by a bloke in a trenchcoat saying "psst" to likely-looking passers by.

IanDavis:
I'd like to see pasta sauce marketed like this. "Cook discreetly at home, my lord."

Somebody with a bit more time for a one-off joke can combine these things:

It's worth noting that anyone is free to self-rate, as long as they don't use ESRB or other trademarked insignia. If they just put a big "adults only" sticker on the box that did not resemble the ESRB rating, nor have the ESRB's name on it, they could do what they wanted.

P.S. Thanks

Legion:
I can understand them not being allowed to pretend to have a rating that they do not, but I cannot understand why they are not allowed to "glamorise" the rating if they do have it.

As RatherDull said:

RatherDull:
So if they got a rating that says the game is suitable for very small children, they can't glamorize that either?

Pointing out that your game is kid friendly, should surely not be an issue?

The purpose of the ESRB is to give a recommended consumption rating based off of it's contents. Utilizing it for advertising purposes, whether true or not, defeats the purpose of such a system.

Interestingly, this happened with the MPAA ratings. Films were rated X if they were too spicy for an R (for whatever reason) but they allowed movies to take an X-rating without actual review, the result of which was that X became synonymous with porn.

That's when the MPAA invented the NC-17 rating to differentiate between movies actually reviewed and porn. Ergo:

X indicates explicit sexual content.

XXX indicates explicit sexual content with poor marketing.

NC-17 indicates a movie rated by the MPAA and rejected for an R rating (regardless of the reason). The MPAA dislikes a lot of weird things, such as women enjoying themselves to much in a sexual encounter, or sex that involves bodily fluids, or male erections or gore that's super gory or super sickening, or swearing beyond a certain density. Also: mentioning abortion.

Unrated usually indicates a version of a film rejected by the MPAA for the rating preferred by the studio. An unrated DVD release will feature extra swearing, violence and bawdiness but probably no actual extra sex or nudity. Rarely, it means a foreign film or an independent studio production that told the MPAA to go fuck itself.

Regarding the ESRB, I'd expect a lot of non-sexual games to actually get an AO if they featured, say, realistic human reactions to combat or getting shot (most mooks happily fight until they expire, rather than begging for their mother as they bleed out over the course of the night). As a result, a lot of games glorify or cartoonify violence specifically because the ESRB is afraid to allow a game that disturbs their delicate sensibilities.

I wouldn't be surprised if one could get the same kind of marketing value as an AO rating just from flying a ESRB-style banner that read NOT RATED BY THE ESRB -- NEVER WILL BE! BOOBIES!.

Of course, Wartune doesn't appear to actually feature much in the way of boobies, or anything else that might give it an AO rating.

238U

Houseman:
As someone who is lvl 50 in wartune, the game has NO adult content in it whatsoever.

lv 60 myself before it got boring and there is no adult content at all, that would at least be interesting enough

The ESRB says it's against the rules to glamorize your game's rating? Have they SEEN any commercial for any Rated M game ever?!

Lol, quite smart advertising campaign, though since the game will not live up to their "adult" image, I find it to be quite pointless in the long run.

Looking at the screenshots, all that can be said is it's a pretty generic game for all ages. As a fact, it looks like very much like a knock-off of a game called "Mythwar". The game mechanic as well as art style took strikingly similar.

Azaraxzealot:
The ESRB says it's against the rules to glamorize your game's rating? Have they SEEN any commercial for any Rated M game ever?!

There's a big difference between advertising based on the adult content of a game and advertising based on the actual rating itself with no regard to content.

Basically every game advert just stamps the rating up at the end, sort of a quick FYI. Even the infamous Dead Space 2 ads didn't mention the rating, they just did everything else wrong.

I don't even need sex or sexiness in games. That's what porn is for.

This reminds me of old straight-to-video exploitation films that used to arbitrarily give themselves an 'X' rating, back when that was still a thing. Nowadays, they all just advertise being unrated.

Kinitawowi:

Andy Chalk:
AO is the white tiger of videogame ratings, and most game makers will jump through hoops to avoid it

I've suddenly got a vision of AO games being sold in a back alley by a bloke in a trenchcoat saying "psst" to likely-looking passers by.

more likely only available online as a direct download.

hell, I can only think of like two games that actually got an AO rating and kept it instead of toning things down.

yes, both were pretty much porn games disguised as point and click adventures.

rees263:

Azaraxzealot:
The ESRB says it's against the rules to glamorize your game's rating? Have they SEEN any commercial for any Rated M game ever?!

There's a big difference between advertising based on the adult content of a game and advertising based on the actual rating itself with no regard to content.

Basically every game advert just stamps the rating up at the end, sort of a quick FYI. Even the infamous Dead Space 2 ads didn't mention the rating, they just did everything else wrong.

Many of the times I see commercials or trailers state "Rated M for Mature.", they use some guy with a deep, masculine, impressive voice who states it very clearly and not sped up (unless there's a time crunch). I wouldn't say they're ashamed of it.

Wow I've seen these ads all over the place lately. Never really payed them much attention. Interesting strategy, and I agree with the author in that I'm surprised more companies haven't tried it before.

Do you think if they had used T or M instead of the AO, the ESRB would have even noticed?

I actually bothered to look into this game after seeing the ad (I was in incognito mode, so my adblocker was disabled), so their marketing strategy works. Unfortunately their website forces you to sign up before telling you anything about the game, so I looked elsewhere for info and found the AO rating was just a ruse. I was pretty annoyed. Shame on them.

Andy Chalk:
ESRB Scolds Wartune For Fake AO Rating

In retrospect, it's a little surprising that more online games don't pull this kind of stunt.

Permalink

You haven't seen many facebook ads then:
A good 3/4 of the game ads I got had "you must be 18+ to play this game", "adults only" or something along those lines.

I really hope someone starts to take actions against that kind of games, because the ads are getting annoying and they drown out the other games with more honest ads

The game looks like total junk to be honest.

Though that being said, while they don't have permission, ESRB is sounding like total sticks in the mud about the whole thing.

I get this obnoxious feeling that ESRB views AO as nothing more than insult. I can't say I'm too fond of the ESRB if they think that Adult Only is a label that should only be avoided and looked down upon. As others have stated, glamorizing your rating is something that companies do all the time. I don't hear any scolding.

It is as if they are trying to remind us too hard that they are too into being moral guardians. It is a pretty tacky ad and obnoxious, though. I certainly don't ever want to play this game.

Sometimes, though I hate most "M rated" games even. Really, I hardly own any and even more rarely play them. I sometimes wish to develop some AO game that isn't in any way obscene. Just an extremely, literally mature game with extremely both disturbing and thought provoking content. A game that treads through the worst aspects of humanity in a wholly intellectual fashion. The AO label would give it more publicity and give it the legendary game status I would want it to have.

One of those word of mouth cult hits. A deep psychological game that isn't afraid to use content to relay a point when it it actually necessary, and stay far away from it when it isn't. And intellectual and moral use of extremely explicit content worth of an Adults Only label. And you can bet I would absolutely glamorize my Adults Only rating.

Pretty sure this is by the same people who made Evony. Not that I'm going to go to their site to find out; it's probably riddled with viruses.

kburns10:
Wow I've seen these ads all over the place lately. Never really payed them much attention. Interesting strategy, and I agree with the author in that I'm surprised more companies haven't tried it before.

Do you think if they had used T or M instead of the AO, the ESRB would have even noticed?

Yup. The rating icons are trademarked by the ESA with authority to use them reserved exclusively by the ESRB acting as agents of the trademark holders.

To summarize, unless the ESRB grants you permission to use the icons (which permission is restricted to match the game to a particular icon) you cannot use it.

In fact, if the developers continue to use it as part of their advertising, they can be sued by the ESA.

EstrogenicMuscle:
Though that being said, while they don't have permission, ESRB is sounding like total sticks in the mud about the whole thing.

They're actually being very kind about it. The ESRB has full legal right to demand the removal under trademark law.

EstrogenicMuscle:
As others have stated, glamorizing your rating is something that companies do all the time. I don't hear any scolding.

Back up a bit. What games? What advertisements? Only Ads I've seen with the ESRB label on it have it there as a caution as opposed to an advertisement as per the agreement for being rated.

EstrogenicMuscle:
One of those word of mouth cult hits. A deep psychological game that isn't afraid to use content to relay a point when it it actually necessary, and stay far away from it when it isn't. And intellectual and moral use of extremely explicit content worth of an Adults Only label. And you can bet I would absolutely glamorize my Adults Only rating.

And you would be given a request to take down the ad, then a C&D notice pertaining to the ad, then the rating would be revoked without a refund, then they could sue you for trademark violation.

 

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