According to a developer memo, Windows 8 will not sell apps that have a content rating over PEGI 16 or ESRB Mature.
Specifically, Microsoft highlights a number of content criteria that Windows 8 apps must adhere to:
- Your app must not contain content that advocates discrimination, hatred, or violence based on membership in a particular racial, ethnic, national, linguistic, religious, or other social group, or based on a person’s gender, age, or sexual orientation
- Your app must not contain content or functionality that encourages, facilitates or glamorizes illegal activity
- Your app must not contain or display content that a reasonable person would consider to be obscene
- Your app must not contain content that is defamatory, libelous or slanderous, or threatening
- Your app must not contain content that encourages, facilitates or glamorizes excessive or irresponsible use of alcohol or tobacco products, drugs or weapons
- Your app must not contain content that encourages, facilitates or glamorizes extreme or gratuitous violence, human rights violations, or the creation or use of weapons against a person or animal in the real world
- Your app must not contain excessive or gratuitous profanity
These restrictions will impact a large number of titles. Whereas ratings above Mature are rare in the ESRB system, the PEGI 18 rating is fairly common. The PEGI 18 rating has been applied to a total of 1055 games by the end of December 2011, according to the PEGI 2011 Annual Report (embedded below). This represents roughly 5.7% of all games rated by PEGI. Furthermore, the PEGI 18 rating is growing in popularity. In 2011 alone, 9.8% of games presented to PEGI received a PEGI 18 rating, an increase of 3.7% over the previous year.
Although games that exceed the PEGI 16 rating will not be sold directly on Windows 8, the system will not actually lock out these games. If a consumer were to purchase a PEGI 18 game by buying the physical disc or by perusing a third-party digital distribution network and then installed the game, it would function as expected.
Microsoft has not yet responded to any of the public concern elicited by these restrictions. Gaming Bus reached out to Microsoft for comment, but they did not respond by the time of publication.
Analysis: There are two main distinctions that need to be made here.
First, this is a serious restriction that will have an effect on the games industry. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Darksiders, Borderlands, Half-Life 2, Resident Evil 4, Red Dead Redemption, Saints Row 2, and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are all examples of titles that have received a PEGI 18 rating. Depending on the eventual popularity of the Windows 8 app store, this could be a big financial blow to companies that decide to release similar titles. Although larger publishers will probably not be affected, if the Windows 8 app store does become a large enough market, then smaller studios might have to tone down their games in order to be able to sell on the Windows 8 store.
Second, this does not stop the core gamer from playing whatever titles they want on Windows 8. The only restriction against these games is whether or not they go on the sale from the Windows 8 store, not from the use of these games on Windows 8. Individuals who wish to play these games on the Windows 8 platform will still have all the traditional avenues available to them.
It’ll be interesting to see how all of this plays out when Windows 8 officially launches. Microsoft has drawn the line in the sand about what kind of content it wants in its app store, and only time will tell whether or not that line becomes a financial cliff.
UPDATE: Microsoft has since responded to Gaming Bus but declined to comment on the matter.