Max Payne and Sequel Headed to Xbox 360
ESRB has put up listings which suggest that Max Payne and Max Payne 2 are headed to the Xbox 360. This may refer to either a release through Xbox Live Arcade or through downloadable Xbox Originals, seeing as how the shooters are playable on the console through backwards compatibility.
It is also in time for Max Payne 3, which was announced by Rockstar just some time ago. The second sequel arrives this winter on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Wolfenstein Coming to PS3 and Xbox 360
According to ESRB’s game ratings list, id Software’s classic first-person shooter Wolfenstein 3D is headed to PS3 and Xbox 360.
No further details were given, but many are speculating that the PSN and Xbox Live Arcade release will be timed to promote the upcoming Wolfenstein game in development at Raven Software; it is due out this summer on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.
Survey Finds Stores Still Sell M-rated Games to Teenagers
In a shocking revelation, a two month undercover survey by the NIMF has found that 46 percent of US stores investigated were willing to sell “M” rated games to teenagers below eighteen years of age. The survey was carried out in more than sixty stores across the US by a group led by the East County Youth Coalition, based in San Diego.
They are now calling for retailers to closely adhere to the ESRB rating system and is also asking them to institute formal training for employees, prominently display the rating system in stores and separate M-rated games from other titles.
ESRB Under Fire for Giving Manhunt 2 "M" Rating
Some people just aren’t happy. Gamespot reports that the recently rerated Manhunt 2 has come under fire, specifically ESRB, who are now asked to reveal details as to what has changed since the game got the AO (Adults Only) rating. California senator Leland Yee has asked the advisory board to explain why the game has received a new rating of M (Mature); similar calls have been made by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
ESRB president Patricia Vance has responded. She said, “Publishers submit game content to the ESRB on a confidential basis. It is simply not our place to reveal specific details about the content we have reviewed, particularly when it involves a product yet to be released. What can be said is that the changes that were made to the game, including the depictions themselves and the context in which those depictions were presented, were sufficient to warrant the assignment of an M (Mature 17+) rating by our raters.”
She also suggested that instead of making such complaints, one should work with parents to educate them about the ratings system and ask them to buy games accordingly for their children. She added, “It is a parent’s rightful place to make choices for their own children. The ESRB and console manufacturers provide families with the tools and information to help them do so.”
Politicians are tough people to please though. When contacted by Gamespot, Senator Lee responded with “What are they trying to hide?” He went on to say that the ESRB cannot be trusted for their “culture of secrecy” and blames the board for not “protecting children” from ultra-violent games.
Thompson Praises UK Rating System
Thompson is at it again, lauding the British games rating system, saying that it had send out a “message to critics” as it decided not to grant Manhunt 2 a rating.
“The UK does manage ratings much better than the US… You rate a game and you can’t sell it to people if it falls in a certain category – in other words the rating actually has a sanction, whereas in this county the rating means nothing,” he said.
He also believes that America will eventually follow suit and that ESRB’s rating model will be investigated if Hillary Clinton is elected as President.
Oblivion Re-rated to "M", Bethesda Responds
Word comes from ESRB that it has re-rated 2K Games’ Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to a “M” (Mature) from its former “T” (Teen) rating. Apparently, the change was invoked due to the presence of a “locked-out art file or ‘skin’ that, if accessed through a third party modification to the PC version of the game, allows the user to play with topless versions of female characters.” Yes, an user mod caused the change.
The locked out content isn’t accessible in the Xbox 360 version, which has retained its “T” rating. This follows the “Hot Coffee” scandal of GTA: San Andreas – its rating was also changed due to a user-created mod that allowed the player to see (and do) naughty stuff.
Bethesda has issued a statement on the matter, standing by ESRB’s decision and clearing up a few bits of misinformation.
The ESRB has revoked their Teen rating for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the PC and the Xbox 360 and has assigned the game a new rating of Mature. The ESRB reports that this is due to content in the game that was not fully disclosed when rating the game initially. Bethesda, not its co-publisher, developed the game, handled the ratings application before the ESRB, and stands behind it.
Bethesda will promptly implement the ratings change that the ESRB has ordered for Oblivion. We will not contest the ESRB’s decision to re-rate the game as Mature, nor will we change the game’s content to keep a Teen rating. We believe that this critically acclaimed game is not typical of Mature rated titles, and does not present the central themes of violence that are common to those products.
Bethesda will work with its co-publisher to place new “M” rating stickers on Oblivion packaging now at retail and in warehouses, and will reflect the change in rating on newly manufactured product. No product recall is being directed.
In light of the public comments that are being made about this matter, and to respond to questions we are being asked, we are releasing this statement to be on record about the circumstances giving rise to Oblivion’s change in rating.
Bethesda Softworks made what it believes was a full, accurate, and comprehensive submission on Oblivion to the ESRB months before the game’s release. Bethesda used the ESRB’s application forms and believes it adhered closely to their requirements. Nothing was hidden from the ratings agency. No effort was made by Bethesda to lobby or influence the agency for any particular rating.
The ESRB has concluded that the game deserves a rating of Mature because: 1) partial nudity in the PC version of the game can be created by modders; and 2) the game contains excessive blood and gore that go beyond a Teen rating. The facts are as follows:
There is no nudity in Oblivion without a third party modification. In the PC version of the game only – this doesn’t apply to the Xbox 360 version – some modders have used a third party tool to hack into and modify an art archive file to make it possible to create a mesh for a partially nude (topless) female that they add into the game. Bethesda didn’t create a game with nudity and does not intend that nudity appear in Oblivion. There is no nude female character in a section of the game that can be “unlocked.” Bethesda can not control tampering with Oblivion by third parties. Bethesda is taking steps to ensure that modders can not continue to hack into Oblivion’s art archives to create partially nude figures.
With regard to violence, Bethesda advised the ESRB during the ratings process that violence and blood effects were “frequent” in the game – checking the box on the form that is the maximum warning. We further advised that the game contained occasional torture, vulgar acts, and gore. We gave accurate answers and descriptions about the type and frequency of violence that appears in the game. We submitted a 60-page document listing the explicit language, acts, and scenes in the game. Oblivion packaging already contains warnings for “Violence” and “Blood and Gore.”
We value the role of the ESRB and believe the rating agency plays a valuable role in regulating our industry. As always, we will continue work in good faith to comply fully with the ESRB’s standards and policies.
We remain enormously proud of Oblivion and the standard of excellence in game development it represents. Oblivion is one of the highest rated games of all time and one of the most popular games available on the Xbox 360 and the PC. We greatly appreciate the understanding and support of our fans.
So, developers are now accountable for third-party/user-created content? That’s ridiculous!