Epic Games Modifies Blockchain Guidelines After ESRB Rates Games As Adults Only

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The world of blockchain gaming has taken an unexpected turn after the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) slapped two titles, Gods Unchained and Striker Manager 3, with Adults Only (AO) ratings. This rating, typically reserved for games with graphic violence or sexual content, surprised many due to the games’ seemingly innocuous “play-to-earn” mechanics involving real-world cash prizes.

Epic Games Store, known for its strict content guidelines, initially removed the games in accordance with its policy against AO-rated titles. However, this didn’t seem fair to the developers, and it’s true that blockchain is still relatively new to the gaming space. To avoid inconsistency and confusion, Epic Games has now revised its policy to allow AO-rated games on one specific condition: if the rating solely stems from the use of blockchain or NFT technology. This was revealed in a tweet.

This revision reinstates Gods Unchained and Striker Manager 3 on the Epic Store. However, it only signals a partial embrace of some blockchain games. Epic still maintains stringent guidelines for these titles, aiming to ensure transparency and responsible practices.

The guidelines are still strict on:

  • Ban on paid offers and external links: In-game purchases and links to external blockchain marketplaces are prohibited.
  • Regional restrictions: Blockchain games are unavailable in China and South Korea due to regulatory concerns.
  • No gambling: Games must not facilitate gambling with real-world currency or digital assets.
  • Transparency and disclosure: Developers must provide clear information about the blockchain technology used, its potential risks, and user terms.

This policy change highlights how age ratings are changing for blockchain games. Traditional rating systems designed for traditional content may struggle to label these games in a way that seems fair for everyone.

The ESRB‘s AO rating for “play-to-earn” games is a good example of ways to combat the rising trend of lootboxes and sneaky ways of gambling. I’m not against it, but I do understand Epic Games wanting to allow games to operate on their storefront. We’ll have to wait and see if this affects other storefronts and how other platforms and rating bodies will adapt to the rise of blockchain gaming. One thing is certain: the industry must work together to develop a robust and consistent approach to age ratings that protects players while fostering innovation in this exciting new frontier.