Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association)

  In order to clarify part of his oral evidence to the DCMS Select Committee with regards to the exponential increase in games as they move on-line Director General of ELSPA, Paul Jackson, would like the following to be taken into consideration:

  The current online PC games market offers a good indication of how the online games industry will develop. Under the PC model, a consumer buys an introductory on-line game, the player is then offered the opportunity to supplement that game with the purchase of additional items to add to the gaming experience. For example, in a lifestyle game you might buy additional clothes, in a football game you might buy additional teams or in a war game you might buy additional weapons. It is essential to note that there have been instances where—by purchasing an additional item—the nature of the game has changed thereby altering the appropriate age at which the game should be played.

  Therefore the developing online gaming experience requires the classification of two types of on-line content: The initial game and then all additional products you can buy for that game. For the correct classification of on-line gaming and the protection of children, all games and additional content need to be rated as some additional items might be suitable for different age groups.

  By extension, we can accurately predict that the next generation of games consoles will move in the same way where all consoles posses the capability of a "live" shop that provides registered users access to new or additional content. Once logged into a game, the registered player will have the opportunity to expand, upgrade or enhance their existing product. This will require the correct classification of the content, and appropriate restrictions if the age category is raised above that of the original product.

  As with all purchases on-line the speed with which a consumer can access the market is infinitely faster than via conventional means. As games move increasingly on-line publishers will doubtless exploit this opportunity by continually looking to offer additional experiences to their original purchase, thereby massively increasing the number products to be rated. Therefore in order to protect children it is vital that we have a classification system which is capable of coping with the exponential explosion of games and games products over the next few years.

  This point is backed up on behalf of the industry by Vice President of EA Games Keith Ramsdale who states:

    "We believe over the next few years our business will evolve towards a similar model we've trialled with success in Korea with FIFA MSG. The difference being that instead of a standalone MSG model we will use the technology to enhance our existing boxed business. Our games will likely release in their traditional fashion but then offer a post launch feature service via the release of smaller game content offering year round online. The future of our games will evolve from once a year product ship to a sports entertainment service made up of 500+ game feature pieces released year round. We will be announcing the first step in that direction for FIFA later this summer."

June 2008

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