Memorandum submitted by Entertainment
THE DCMS ON
The Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA)
is a UK trade organisation formed specifically to act as a forum
for the retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video, DVD
and Multimedia products industry. Established in 1988, our members
now represent approximately 90% of all outlets for entertainment
products. Our members encompass supermarkets (eg Tesco, Asda),
generalists (eg Woolworths, WHSmith), specialists (eg GAME, HMV)
internet mail order (eg Amazon, Play), independent high street
retailers and digital retailers (7digital and mobile players).
ERA is also a member of the Video Standards
Council and the BBFC Consultative Committee.
Computer games are generally exempt from legal
classification under the Video Recordings Act, which regulates
the film and video markets. However, certain games lose their
exemption under the Act and therefore require legal classification
under the BBFC system. The PEGI games rating system was created
to provide information on games products although it has no legal
force. This means that Entertainment retailers in the UK currently
operate under two different age ratings systems for computer games:
(a) PEGI, a Pan-European voluntary age ratings
system. This system is administered by the industry and has the
following ratings 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+, and
(b) BBFC, a mandatory legal ratings system
(for games losing their exemption under the Video Recordings Act).
This system is administered by an independent Government mandated
private body, entrusted with administering ratings for video and
certain computer games. BBFC uses the following ratings U, PG,
12A, 12, 15 and 18.
At retail level the two systems are treated
in exactly the same way. Voluntary PEGI age ratings system is
enforced as mandatory at retail level eg a 16 rated game will
only be sold to customers 16 and over.
ERA retailers have a long history of administering
staff training on age guidelines, both under the BBFC and the
PEGI system as well as seeing first hand how consumers relate
to the two age ratings systems.
Training and sales systems in most retailers
make use of till prompts when age rated product is scanned asking
the till operator to check the age of the purchaser. Many stores
also operate a 21 policy ie you must look 21 to buy an 18 rated
product. The comprehensive staff training systems in place at
retail level often using Video Standards Council materials, which
cover both games and video ratings. All ratings systems currently
rely on parents and adults understanding the system and using
a degree of parental responsibility when buying for third parties.
It would not be practical to extend any requirement to check the
ultimate age of the person using the game as this would be intrusive
as well as inoperable ie the consumer would just lie.
Anecdotal research suggests that there is a
slightly better understanding at consumer level of the video (BBFC)
ratings system, than of the games (PEGI) ratings system. ERA believes
this is fundamentally due to the fact that a video game is often
compared to a board game where the rating relates to playability
rather than suitability. Some consumers still do not understand
that a video game (PEGI) rating relates to suitability.
ERA believes that retailers generally operate
good systems relating to control of access to age rated products,
with significant investment in training as well as in store information.
Many internet retailers also display age rating information or
logos on visuals of the product to inform mail order consumers
about the rating for a product.
However, this system breaks down in "non-legitimate"
retail outlets eg car boot fairs, pub sellers etc, often selling
counterfeit versions as well as where adults do not understand
the age ratings shown on products. In particular ERA believes
that having two different sets of ratings on a games product (eg
both BBFC and PEGI) leads to confusion at consumer level and engenders
the false assumption that the two ratings systems should be treated
Therefore as a pre-requisite to making the classification
system work at retail and consumer level there must be one ratings
system for computer games only (eg PEGI or BBFC) but not both.
Not only does this simplify staff training but it also allows
a clear message to be given to consumers regarding games ratings.
Clearly the Video Recordings Act therefore needs
updating to reflect new products (games) and new distribution
channels (internet, downloading). By bringing computer games into
the Act's remit, there will be clear legal force behind any ratings
system and clear solutions for a single games ratings system could
be laid down in the new legislation.
Below we have attempted to (a) provide some
background as to the current market for adult rated products as
well as (b) examine which of the two ratings systems would offer
the best way forward for games retailers and consumers.
2005 Sales broken down by age rating (percentage
| ||All 3+/BBFC
2006 Sales broken down by age rating (percentage of
| ||All 3+/BBFC
2007 Sales broken down by age rating (percentage of
| ||All 3+/BBFC
Over 50% of games are suitable for age seven and under. Only
ca 6 to 8% of all games sold are rated 18+ and the percentage
has not really seen much change over past years.
This represents less than 5% of titles available in the market
and these are almost exclusively rated under the BBFC system.
It should also be noted that despite there being a large number
of adult gamers in the market, the top selling titles are often
in the lower age ratings.
|1.||FIFA 07||PEGI 3+
|2.||Pro Evolution Soccer 6
|3.||Dr Kawashima's Brain Training
|4.||Need for Speed: Carbon
|5.||New Super Mario Bros
|6.||Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
|7.||Gears of War||BBFC 18+
|8.||Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
|9.||Animal Crossing: Wild World
|10.||WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2007
|1.||Wii Play||PEGI 3+
|2.||Dr Kawashima's Brain Training
|3.||HALO 3||BBFC 15+
|4.||More Brain Training from Dr Kawashima
|5.||New Super Mario Bros
|6.||World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
|7.||FORZA Motorsport 2
|8.||Final Fantasy XII
|9.||Resistance: Fall of Man
Based on these statistics, ERA considers that there are likely
to be only a very small number of under age players of 18 rated
games. Most of these games will have been acquired from third
parties or illegitimate sources, rather than having been bought
by the minor in a legitimate outlet. Therefore the most important
thing is for parents to understand the games rating system in
To create clear understanding at consumer level a single
clear ratings system must exist for games with clear legal force.
The following things need to exist in any new system:
a single clear system required for games
at retail leveleither PEGI or BBFC but not both;
increased control of the counterfeit and
illegitimate retail sector (level playing field);
that the exemption for video games be removed
from the Video Recordings Act and that the Act be updated to reflect
the current market and distribution channels, and
that the responsibility at retail level is
clear and remains as current (ie to check the age of the person
purchasing the product before sale and to have effective staff
training systems in this regard).
We have examined below the advantages and disadvantages of
adopting either the PEGI system or the BBFC system for games.
We have also as part of this analysis summarised what steps
we believe would need to be taken to deliver a new system based
on these two routes.
BBFC COULD RATE
The BBFC currently has a remit to administer a mandatory
classification system for video. This remit could be extended
into the computer games arena with a few relatively simple steps
and would require minimal changes to the current Video Recordings
Act ie that the exemption for video games be removed.
The BBFC already have some experience in
rating games, although the systems for doing so may need to be
The BBFC system is clearly understood by
consumers and retailers and implementing this system for games
would require limited changes in training and less need to re-educate
The BBFC system takes account of UK sensibilities.
Using the BBFC system would lead to there
being only one system at retail level for both video, film and
computer games. As product converges in the future (and it becomes
increasingly difficult to distinguish between what is a game and
what is a video), it will become increasingly important to have
just one ratings system for similar products.
The BBFC system is already a mandatory system
with the ability to ban products.
As the BBFC is independent and not industry
owned or self regulated it is therefore a more robust system in
the eyes of the consumer.
Disadvantages and Implementation
The BBFC workload would increase dramatically
which would require it to employ extra staff. However the extra
income generated from this activity should allow it to take on
The BBFC systems may need to be changed for
computer games as the product, being often 20 times longer than
a film, may require a different approach. PEGI has experience
in managing a large number of new products that the BBFC do not
currently have, and retailers would not want a system that delays
games reaching consumers.
Creating a UK only system for computer games
will entail additional costs and production delays for publishers
and could result in certain products not being available in UK.
It would also disadvantage pan-European retailers.
A UK only system does not operate in a global
internet environment so certain products will bypass the system.
However this would also be the case for a pan-European system.
CURRENT PEGI SYSTEM
PEGI is currently responsible for rating games and has done
a good job of creating a pan-European games ratings system, which
generally operates well. This system could be improved to address
some of the limitations inherent in the current system.
It is an established and proven system, which
retailers and consumers are used to seeing on games.
It operates on a pan-European basis, allowing
it to regulate some products entering the market from outside
of the UK.
It operates smoothly and is cost effective
for publishers, and enjoys wide support from publishers and developers.
Disadvantages and Implementation
Generally the rating is understood by consumers
but to a slightly lesser degree than the BBFC rating.
The system has no legal force so any new
"PEGI" would need to be mandatory and PEGI would need
to be recognized under the Video Recordings Act.
PEGI does not account for UK sensibilities,
so a system would need to be built in to change the PEGI rating
based on UK specific viewsthis might ultimately entail
a BBFC involvement.
Currently there is confusion where games
lose exemption and move to BBFC systemthis would have to
be resolved in any new system to allow that where a product is
primarily a game PEGI rates the product and where the product
is a primarily a video the BBFC rates the product. This may be
difficult to implement as products converge.
There is currently no system to ban products.
Therefore in any new PEGI system these aspects would need to be
addressed and either PEGI must be able to ban or the BBFC would
have to continue to be involved in this regard.
Retail support a system fully enforceable
Retail (and consumers) would benefit from
a single clear well understood ratings system for games which
is not a combination of BBFC and PEGI.
Retail would be happy to adopt either a BBFC
or PEGI system for games but preferably not both.
Retail will continue to train staff on whichever
system(s) is/are in place and to ensure that information regarding
the systems is displayed in store.
Whichever system is adopted it must be mandatory
and robust with clear obligationsie retail to check age
of purchaser not the ultimate player of the product, which is
unworkable in practice.
For internet retailers the most important
part of any system will be clear provision of information regarding
the age rating on the product to be purchased.
Whichever system is adopted must be well
communicated both to staff and customers.
A pan-European system has benefits both to
publishers and retailers that should not be discounted.
The system should be all-encompassing, so
as to apply to boxed and internet products alike.
Adopting a single system for games would
make staff training and consumer understanding levels more robust.
A consumer awareness campaign indicating
that the BBFC ratings now apply to computer games would be easy
to implement and clearly understood by consumers.
Retail could also operate a more robust PEGI
system but only if the system had clear legal force and was adapted
to provide a banning mechanism as well as to deal with UK sensibilities.
A new PEGI system would also require a well
thought out consumer awareness campaign on behalf of the publishers
to make clear that the system is understood.