The extended powers of PEGI Online are intended as a solid guide to players and parents alike on the suitability of titles for different ages. The new ratings system was rolled out at the Expert Conference 2007 in Brussels by ISFE, the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, the European industry body for games publishers of which ELSPA was a founding member.
Europe’s Commissioner for Education and Culture, Viviane Reding, told the conference she was in no doubt about the value of PEGI Online. “The protection of children as users of online technologies is of great importance for the Commission,” she said. “The Internet has added a whole new dimension to the various forms of media consumption. This includes video games [which] increasingly constitute one of the favourite leisure activities of Europeans of all ages and social categories.
“In that context, I believe that Europe needs a strong interactive games industry. Indeed, interactive games now sell more, in terms of value, than films in Europe’s cinemas. The total value of online exploitation of video games through fixed and mobile platforms in Europe was €699m (£472m) in 2005.
“The system is aimed at ensuring input not only by industry but also by all other stakeholders - including regulators, child welfare NGOs and child psychology experts who were consulted in the design of the system and are represented in the structure set up to run PEGI and PEGI Online.
“This is a good example of an industry initiative developed in co-operation with other stakeholders which allows a rapid and flexible solution to the problems of new technologies and greater safety for our children.”
Paul Jackson, director general of the UK’s trade body ELSPA, said: “We are fully behind the new PEGI Online system, which we hope will reassure parents that games which are playable online are being marketed responsibly by our members. The PEGI system has proved a great success since it started five years ago. Since April 2003 no less than 7,000 games have been rated - it’s all about ensuring the right games get into hands of the right gamers.”
The PEGI Online system was also backed by Microsoft Entertainment Products Division boss, Chris Lewis. He said: “At Microsoft we actively look for ways to work with partners to empower parents – and provide great digital entertainment for consumers. We’re really happy to be able to sign up to PEGI Online, extending the information, education and protection PEGI ratings give to gamers into the online space with Xbox LIVE and Games For Windows LIVE.”
The new PEGI Online scheme has been in development for the last 18 months and is accompanied by the new PEGI Online label that licence holders will display on packaging. Also accompanying the system will be a dedicated multi-language website (www.pegionline.eu) explaining the scheme in detail as well as offering advice for safer gaming.
Publishers adopting the new scheme will be rolling out products with the new rating over the coming months, with most embracing PEGI Online by the end of the year. Hardware giant Microsoft was amongst the first publishers to give the scheme its full backing.