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ESRB Demands Audit

ESRB Demands Publisher Audit For Hidden Game Content (thanks Gamecloud) reports that the Entertainment Software Rating Board has emailed all major video game publishers restating that: "Fully disclosing hidden content accessible as Easter eggs and via cheat codes has always been part of ESRB's explicitly stated requirements when submitting games to be rated." The following excerpt also includes a puzzling bit about how the board is "concerned" about how third party modifications impact the "credibility" of the ratings system:

Most interestingly, the ESRB has announced, with the support of its Board of Directors, a request that all game publishers complete a comprehensive review of all games launched since September 1, 2004. This internal publisher-run audit is intended to determine if non-playable, pertinent content, not previously disclosed to the ESRB, remains in the final code on the discs released to the public.

Publishers must inform the ESRB of any possible issues regarding hidden content by January 9, 2006, and the ratings board may re-rate titles if any of this content changes the potential rating for the game.

The email then specifies: "If you fail to notify us of previously undisclosed, non-playable, pertinent content by January 9, and such content becomes playable through a subsequent authorized or unauthorized release of code to unlock it, rendering the original rating assignment inaccurate, punitive in addition to corrective actions may result." It is as yet unclear exactly what punitive actions the ESRB may sanction, or is capable of carrying out.

Finally, the ESRB addresses third-party 'mod' content which could potentially change the game's suitability, but was not inserted by the game's developer, commenting: "ESRB remains concerned about third party modifications that undermine the accuracy of the original rating, and we are exploring ways to maintain the credibility of the rating system with consumers in light of modifications of this nature."

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