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.

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