Rating rant

We've reported on the less-than-ideal nature of global age ratings in the past, and what they mean for indie developers attempting to make a living on Nintendo's systems. Releasing a game internationally isn't a simple matter of pushing a button; age ratings must be granted in every territory which enforces them, and that means submitting the game for approval multiple times - a process which not only takes time, but also costs a considerable sum of money. In short, the developer is losing money on the game before it has even had chance to generate any revenue.

We've already seen publishers holding back titles for release in certain regions due to this situation, and it would now appear that things have become so dire that some studios are ditching the German market - an event which would be particularly embarrassing for Nintendo, as its European HQ is based in the country.

We should point out that the developer who has tipped us off wishes to remain anonymous, but we can tell you they are a widely-respected member of the Nintendo indie development scene and have already created and released multiple well-received titles on the eShop.

According to our source, over the past months there have been secret European developer meetings to discuss the current state of the eShop. 'Most' indie developers are struggling to sell over 3,000 units in the lifetime of an eShop game, and as a result many are dropping support for Nintendo's consoles. However, this issue isn't just impacting small-scale indie developers - our source claims that larger download publishers are starting to drop Germany because they are not able to recoup the cost of earning a USK rating - a similar situation to what happens in Australia, which sees a reduced number of eShop games due to rating costs.

Of course, not every eShop game can be a smash-hit, but if this is impacting larger publishers then it means there will be less software for 3DS and Wii U owners to enjoy. But what can Nintendo do about it? The current age ratings are outside of its control - they are there to protect children from harmful content, and the approval process is something that naturally takes time and effort, hence the need to charge for it; Nintendo cannot force gamers to buy indie titles, either. The flipside of the argument is that Nintendo could explore a similar policy to Apple, skipping ratings agencies in favour of its own internal system. Another option is a quicker, more unified global ratings process recently adopted by Google Play - called IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) ratings, which only requires an online questionnaire submission that covers all territories. Nintendo is reportedly in line to adopt this standard for the eShop in future.

What are your thoughts on this situation? What action can be taken to ensure that publishers don't have to ignore certain markets when they launch their eShop games? Sound off in the comments section below to tell us what you think.