Sex, religion and violence: The big concerns for international game ratings

Content localization can be a minefield for game developers as they work to release their games around the world. Add the wrong content, make a localization mix up and your game could get pulled from stores nationwide.

Speaking during a GDC panel about localization and ratings, Zeb Wedell, localization producer at Microsoft Studios, said that he knows of about 70 games that were released in a country and then pulled because they were banned.

"There are probably a lot more," he said. "There are probably hundreds."

During the panel, titled Best Practices for Leveraging Worldwide Age Ratings Submissions and Geopolitical Content Reviews, Wedell walked through some of the historic mistakes developers and publishers have made over the year that led to bannings, poor sales or costly last-minute changes.

He also walked the gathering through an interesting list of "age rating content priorities." The list, broken down by international rating boards, showed how each board prioritized concerns when considering game ratings. While the lists offers a good sense of how cultural mores impact rating systems in different countries, Wedell pointed out that priorities can often shift depending on the sort of game being rated and a number of other factors.

Sexual content topped North America's ESRB list, followed by language. Violence was listed as third most important, then drug and alcohol use and finally gambing.

Religion topped the list for the Middle East's UAE and KSA, followed by sexual content with violence once more in third. Gambling was next, then language and finally drug and alcohol use.

Both Germany's USK and South Korea's GRB listed violence as their top priority for ratings. Violence is so important to Germany's rating's board that panelists said violence takes the top four slots, with everything else bunched together in a distant fifth place. South Korea listed gambling second, followed by language, sexual content, drug and alcohol use, crime and finally horror.

More from Polygon

Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King Overview

  • Pillars of Eternity builds on role-playing classics

  • Tour the 1 KB hard drive built inside Minecraft

  • Diablo 3 - Xbox One vs. PC comparison

  • Enemy Starfighter: Homeworld from inside a fighter

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.