Update: A representative from PEGI has now provided further clarification on the updated rules regarding gambling in games, explaining that older titles would only be upgraded to 18+ if they were re-released with changes, technically making it a new game. You can find the full explanation underneath our original story below:
Original Article (Wed 1st Sep, 2021 13:00 BST): PEGI, which serves as the video game content rating system across Europe, has updated its criteria regarding gambling in games. The change means that any games which "encourage or teach gambling" will now be instantly classified as PEGI 18.
You'll no doubt have spotted PEGI content descriptors on your favourite games – Bad Language, Discrimination, Drugs, Fear, Gambling, Sex, Violence, and more recently, In-Game Purchases can all be noted on a game's box or store page, along with an age rating between 3 and 18 to match the content included.
Over time, these descriptors are reviewed, and while a game containing gambling could previously get away with being a PEGI 12 or PEGI 16, it will now always automatically be a PEGI 18. The VSC Game Rating Board explains the change:
"In 2020, the PEGI criteria were changed so that, in future, any games featuring moving images that “teach and/or glamorise the use of games of chance that are played/carried out as a traditional means of gambling” will be rated PEGI 18.
This refers to types of betting or gambling for money that is normally played or carried out in casinos, gambling halls, or racetracks. It does not cover games where betting or gambling is simply part of the general storyline. The game must actually teach the player how to gamble or bet and/or glamorise gambling. For example, this will include games that teach the player how to play card games that are usually played for money or how to play the odds in horse racing."
As noted by AskAboutGames, one Switch title affected by the rule change is Overboard!, a murder mystery text adventure that includes 'Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes and Use of Alcohol' – content that would usually give the game a PEGI 12 rating. However, thanks to a scene where the player can enjoy a game of blackjack, the rating is upped to PEGI 18, with the lower-age indicators being removed in favour of the higher-level 'Simulated Gambling' warning.
Interestingly, the rule change means that were Nintendo – or any publisher, for that matter – to remake some of its older titles and release them again in today's climate, they'd almost certainly see a significant age rating bump.
Take Pokémon Red and Blue, as an example, which feature the Game Corner – a building packed with slot machines that allow the player to bet their in-game cash to earn more money and claim prizes. These were originally released as being suitable for everyone, but were updated to a PEGI 12 rating when they were re-released on the 3DS eShop in 2016 thanks to their gambling content. If Nintendo were to re-release the games again on Switch, they'd be classed as PEGI 18. [Update - see clarification below for more info].
Countless other games would also be impacted in a similar way, such as Super Mario 64 DS. Thanks to a gambling minigame, its original PEGI 3 rating rose to PEGI 12 when it was re-released on Wii U, and would now be given a PEGI 18 if remade for Switch.
Update: PEGI offers further clarification, explaining that a straight re-release wouldn't be affected, but an "upgraded, modernised" version would:
"If an older game that is PEGI 12 for simulated gambling would be re-released, it would retain its age rating, provided that it is not an upgraded, modernised, re-interpreted or reshuffled version of the older game. It must be identical in content, otherwise it must be treated as a new game, at which point the current criteria apply. Historical rating are maintained as long as the game is put on the market again in the same form.
When we implemented the criterion change in the first part of 2020, we made the conscious decision not to apply the change retroactively. We wanted to avoid that the exact same game could be found in a shop for two different consoles with two different age ratings."