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Mobile industry rolls out gaming rating system

Six mobile storefronts will adopt the ESRB rating system in the coming months

Mobile telecom trade group CTIA and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) will roll out a rating system for mobile applications similar to ratings on other electronic games, the groups announced Tuesday.

Six mobile application storefronts will support the rating system and will roll out the ratings in the coming months, CTIA said. AT&T, Microsoft, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless are the founding members of the rating system, the trade group said in a press release.

Each company will make its own announcement on when the rating system will be available to customers.

Game developers, when they submit apps to a participating storefront, will be able to fill out a detailed multiple choice questionnaire designed to assess an application's content and its age appropriateness. The questionnaire will look for violence, sexual content, language and references to controlled substances, as well as whether the app exchanges user-generated content with others and whether it shares the user's location, CTIA said.

The rating, which will happen within seconds of the developer submitting the questionnaire, will be free to developers.

ESRB will routinely test the most popular applications and closely monitor consumer complaints, CTIA said. ESRB will adjust the ratings of apps it finds to be rated inappropriately.

The new rating system received positive reviews from Senators Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Mark Pryor, an Arkansas Democrat, as well as the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI).

"In our increasingly digital world, kids can walk around with the Internet in their pockets," FOSI CEO Stephen Balkam said in a statement. "We applaud CTIA and ESRB for developing an easily accessible rating system that enables families to make the best decisions about the content their kids access on mobile devices. Keeping informed about mobile apps and holding open, honest conversations with your family is the best way to stay on top of emerging trends and experience all of the great things the Internet has to offer."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.


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