Our History


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

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


Advertising Code of Conduct created and adopted by the IDSA


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

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


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


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

Non-pixelated versions of rating symbols introduced


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

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


New target marketing guidelines for Mature-rated games introduced

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


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


ESRB rating system for websites discontinued


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


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

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

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

ESRB launches its first PSA campaign featuring artwork by Penny Arcade


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

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

Rating summaries are introduced along with ESRB’s mobile website


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Interactive Elements added to ESRB ratings for digital games and apps

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


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

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


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


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

The Nintendo eShop deploys the IARC rating system for all digitally delivered video games and apps

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


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


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

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


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

PlayStation deploys IARC on the PlayStation Store to display ESRB ratings for all digitally delivered games, including for PlayStation VR


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

Origin deploys the IARC rating system for all digitally delivered games


ESRB introduces In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element



ESRB launches ¡Vamos a Jugar! (or “Let’s Play” in English) to help Spanish-speaking parents and guardians learn about the ESRB rating system, parental controls, and more

Google Stadia deploys the IARC rating system for all digitally delivered video games

ESRB introduces the RATING PENDING – LIKELY MATURE 17+ notice that publishers can include in advertisements and promotional materials for upcoming video games that have not yet been rated but are anticipated to be rated Mature 17+


Amazon Luna deploys the IARC rating system for its cloud gaming platform

Pico deploys the IARC rating system for its VR games and experiences

ESRB launches The Family Gaming Guide, a new resource to help parents manage their kids’ video game experiences and keep peace of mind

Did You Know?

67% of the ESRB ratings assigned to physical and console downloadable video games in 2022 were either E (Everyone) or E10+ (Everyone 10+).

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Did You Know?

84% of parents who purchase physical video games for their children are aware of ESRB ratings and 74% regularly check them before buying a game. (Source: Hart Research Associates, 2022)

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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, 2022)

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Did You Know?

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

Learn More about Principles and Guidelines

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.”

Learn More at supremecourt.gov

Did You Know?

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

Learn More in History of ESRB

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.

Learn More on our Blog

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.

Learn More at globalratings.com

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?

More than 70% 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!

Learn More on Family gaming guide

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.

Learn More on Parental controls

Did You Know?

The average gamer is 33 years old.

Learn More at theesa.com
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Content Rated By: An Oral History of the ESRB by Blake J. Harris
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Content Rated By: An Oral History of the ESRB
by Blake J. Harris