About ESRB

We are the non-profit, self-regulatory body for the video game industry. Established in 1994, our primary responsibility is to help consumers – especially parents – make informed choices about the games their families play.

What We Do and Why

Our rating system was established with the help of child development and academic experts, based on an analysis of other rating systems and what parents need from an effective rating system. We found that consumers respond best to an age-based rating system that also includes impartial information about the actual content of a game. As games evolved, further research showed that parents place equal importance on receiving advance notice about the ways which some games are played, such as interacting with other players online and spending money to purchase in-game items.

Our three-part rating system includes Rating Categories to suggest age-appropriateness, Content Descriptors to indicate what type of content may have triggered the rating, and Interactive Elements, which advises about sharing the user’s location with other users, in-game purchases, user interactions, and unrestricted internet access. The result is a rating system that is widely adopted by game publishers, supported by retailers, regularly used by parents and consistently described by regulators and opinion leaders as the most effective entertainment rating system in the U.S., if not the world.

We are also responsible for enforcing industry-adopted advertising guidelines, and helping to ensure responsible web and mobile privacy practices under the ESRB Privacy Certified Program.

History
1994

ESRB founded by the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA was renamed Entertainment Software Association in 2004)

1994

New ESRB rating system announced, with 5 rating categories and 17 content descriptors

1995

Advertising Code of Conduct created and adopted by the IDSA

1997

ESRBi rating system established for websites, with 5 rating categories and 22 content descriptors

1997

Online Rating Notice established to warn consumers of user-generated content in online-enabled games and on websites

1998

K-A (Kids to Adults) rating category changed to E (Everyone)

1999

First ESRB Public Service Announcements launched featuring Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter and Regis Philbin

1999

Non-pixelated versions of rating symbols introduced

2000

Advertising Review Council established as division of ESRB to monitor compliance with industry-adopted marketing and advertising guidelines

2000

ESRB enforcement system established to impose sanctions, including points, fines and corrective actions, on companies who do not comply with ESRB rules and guidelines

2001

New target marketing guidelines for Mature-rated games introduced

2001

ESRB Privacy Online certification service launched and sanctioned by the FTC as a “Safe Harbor” under COPPA

2002

Arthur Pober departs as ESRB’s founding president; Patricia Vance joins ESRB as its new president

2003

ESRBi rating system for websites discontinued

2005

E10+ rating category introduced for games that may be suitable for ages 10 and older

2006

ESRB increases fine up to $1 million for non-disclosure of pertinent content

2006

ESRB Retail Council (ERC) launched by ESRB and leading computer and video game retailers; “ERC Commitment to Parents” is adopted by all ERC retail members

2006

National radio and TV PSA campaign promoting ratings awareness launched with U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Lieberman

2006

ESRB launches its first PSA campaign featuring artwork by Penny Arcade

2008

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finds eight in ten underage buyers are turned away when attempting to purchase Mature-rated games

2008

PTA and ESRB release “Parents Guide to Video Games, Parental Controls and Online Safety”

2008

Rating summaries are introduced along with ESRB’s mobile website

2009

ESRB Privacy Online launches E.U. Privacy Seal Certification program

2009

The FTC’s sixth follow-up Report to Congress lauds ESRB for having “the strongest self-regulatory code” and confirms that retailers have maintained their 80% store policy compliance rate

2010

ESRB launches PSA campaigns with the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Blackhawks, both of which include TV and radio ads running in their respective regions as well as in-stadium/arena

2010

The ESRB Website Council (EWC) is established to help ensure that game enthusiast sites post complete rating information and employ age-gates on trailers and videos for M- and AO-rated games

2011

The FTC’s mystery shopper study finds enforcement of entertainment ratings to be “highest among video game sellers” with 87% overall compliance

2011

ESRB introduces an automated, streamlined process for assigning ratings to console downloadable games

2011

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. EMA/ESA that video games qualify for First Amendment protection and the sale of violent games may not be restricted by law, a landmark decision that recognized the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system

2011

ESRB is commissioned by the CTIA, the trade association representing wireless carriers in the U.S., to develop and administer a rating system for mobile apps

2011

ESRB launches TV, radio and in-arena PSA campaign with the Washington Capitals

2012

ESRB releases a new print and online PSA campaign featuring real-life parents and gamers and artwork by Penny Arcade

2012

ESRB launches TV and radio PSA campaign with the San Francisco Giants with airings in AT&T Park and throughout the Bay Area during the 2012 MLB season

2012

ESRB introduces a digital rating service to provide cost-free ratings for digitally delivered games

2013

The FTC announces that video game retailers continue to have the highest level of store policy enforcement as compared to other entertainment retailers with 87% overall compliance

2013

ESRB’s Safe Harbor privacy program is re-branded ESRB Privacy Certified featuring new seals and privacy resources for existing and new members

2013

Interactive Elements added to ESRB ratings for digital games and apps

2014

International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) begins assigning ratings to games and apps on Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace

2015

The Australian Classification Board (ACB) becomes an IARC participating rating authority

2015

Google Play deploys the IARC rating system, resulting in the display of ESRB ratings for all apps available in North America

2016

The Windows Store deploys the IARC rating system for all digitally delivered games and apps

2017

The Oculus Store deploys the IARC rating system for all VR games and apps

2017

Republic of Korea’s Game Rating and Administration Committee (GRAC) becomes the newest participant in the IARC rating system

2018

ESRB begins assigning Interactive Elements to physical (e.g., boxed) games, including In-Game Purchases and Users Interact

2019

ESRB and Penny Arcade launch their third PSA campaign, featuring both artwork and voiceover from the Penny Arcade team

2019

Origin deploys the IARC rating system for all digitally delivered games

Meet Our Executive Team

Our Team
Patricia E. Vance
President

Patricia E. Vance is the president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). In her position, she leads the teams responsible for assigning age and content ratings to video games and apps, enforcing marketing guidelines adopted by the video game industry, and operating ESRB Privacy Certified, an FTC-sanctioned COPPA Safe Harbor Privacy seal certification program.

Did You Know?

61% of the ESRB ratings assigned to physical and console downloadable video games in 2018 were either E (Everyone) or E10+ (Everyone 10+).

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Did You Know?

ESRB has created dozens of PSAs over the years, but the first was a series of spots including Tiger Woods, Derek Jeter, and Regis Philbin in 1999.

Did You Know?

87% of parents who purchase physical video games for their children are aware of ESRB ratings and 77% regularly check them before buying a game. (Source: Hart Research Associates, 2019)

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Did You Know?

Most parents consider each part (Rating Category, Content Descriptors, Interactive Elements) of the ESRB rating system to be either “very” or “extremely” important when deciding if a game or app is appropriate for their kids. (Source: Hart Research Associates, 2019)

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Did You Know?

Industry guidelines, which are enforced by the ESRB, prohibit the inappropriate target marketing of Mature-rated games.

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Did You Know?

ESRB has an enforcement system which allows for the imposition of sanctions, fines (including fines up to $1 million), and corrective actions on publishers for non-compliance with its guidelines.

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Did You Know?

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission 87% of kids under the age of 17 are turned away when trying to buy an M-rated game at retail.

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Did You Know?

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “This [ESRB rating] system does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home.”

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Did You Know?

The E (Everyone) rating was originally called K-A (Kids to Adults) but was changed in 1998.

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Did You Know?

The ESRB rating system has three parts – Rating Categories, Content Descriptors and Interactive Elements, the latter of which were introduced in 2013.

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Did You Know?

Introduced in 2008, Rating Summaries provide greater detail about the content in physical games rated by the ESRB, and are exclusively available on this website or the ESRB mobile app by conducting a title search.

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Did You Know?

ESRB uses more than 30 different Content Descriptors to help communicate what’s in a game.

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Did You Know?

The FTC considers the ESRB to have “the strongest self-regulatory code” among media rating systems in the U.S. and has confirmed that retailers maintain a high store policy compliance rate.

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Did You Know?

Founded in 2013 by many of the world’s leading video game rating authorities, the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC) administers the first globally streamlined age classification process for digital games and mobile apps that respects the unique cultural norms of each region.

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Did You Know?

In 1999 ESRB Privacy Online (now called ESRB Privacy Certified) launched its certification program and was sanctioned by the FTC as a “Safe Harbor” under Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

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Did You Know?

95% of parents would be more comfortable allowing their children to download and play a game certified by ESRB Privacy Certified (Source: Hart Research Associates, 2018).

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Did You Know?

It’s never too late to have “the conversation” with your kids about what, when, and how they can play!

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Did You Know?

Activating parental controls on your children’s video game devices helps you enforce house rules, such as limiting play time, blocking games with certain ESRB ratings, and managing in-game spending.

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Did You Know?

The average age of a gamer today is 33.

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