Back in January, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gave The Elder Scrolls Online an M rating (Mature). The ESRB is charged with helping parents and consumers make informed choices regarding the age-appropriateness of video games. By labeling The Elder Scrolls Online M, the ESRB is declaring that ESO is appropriate for ages 17 and over, due in part to the game containing blood and gore, sexual themes, use of alcohol, and violence.
Elder Scrolls Online M Rating
The Elder Scrolls Online M rating really shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the majority of Elder Scrolls games are already rated Mature (the only exceptions being the Teen-rated Arena and Morrowind). During various beta tests and my limited exposure to ESO, I personally didn’t come across anything in-game that I found over-the-top, but the ESRB cites specific examples as to why the M rating is deserved. Here’s a sampling:
Players engage in melee-style combat, hacking and slashing at various enemies; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, impact sounds, and blood splashes…
In some quests players have the ability to mount creatures’ severed heads onto pikes; some environments depict corpse piles or skeletons hanging from torture devices…
Text descriptions or dialogue sometimes contain references to sexual material and/or innuendo…
During the course of the game, alcohol (i.e., wine, mead, ale) can be purchased and consumed by the central character…
ZeniMax Online Disappointed With Rating
As it turns out, ZeniMax Online Studios (the game’s developer) was hoping for a Teen rating (content suitable for ages 13 and up). Shortly after the Elder Scrolls Online M rating was revealed, Pete Hines expressed the company’s disappointment on Twitter:
The ESRB advised us that it has given The Elder Scrolls Online a Mature rating. While we may disagree with the ESRB’s determination, we do not play to challenge the rating, and we are unwilling to change the game’s content to achieve a different rating. The game we have created is the one we want our fans to be able to play.
As a result of the ESRB rating, we are in the process of promptly updating everything with the required rating and age gates, including game trailers, web sites, and ads. Thanks for your understanding. We can’t wait to welcome players into The Elder Scrolls Online soon.
Ramifications of Mature Rating
While the game’s developer may have been hoping for a different ESRB classification, The Elder Scrolls Online M rating will most likely have little to no effect on the game’s overall success. For instance Skyrim was rated M, and the game went on to win over 200 game of the year titles and shatter sales records with over 20 million copies sold (for more information on this amazing accomplishment, take a look at our article Skyrim Sold Over 20 Million Copies).
True, a Teen rating may have opened The Elder Scrolls Online to a wider audience, but in order to do so, ZeniMax would have to change the game substantially — something they won’t do, and rightfully so. The Elder Scrolls series is one of excitement and danger, and fantasy-based melee combat is integral to the story. There’s blood, violence, Honningbrew Mead, and a very few bits of bawdy dialogue closer to the ribald jests in a Shakespearean play than the overt lines delivered in The Big Bang Theory. The Elder Scrolls Online M rating comes as no surprise, but softening the game is definitely not in the best interests of the series.
So what do you think? Do you believe The Elder Scrolls Online M rating is deserved, and will the rating hurt the game’s sales? Express your opinions in the Speak Your Mind section below, and be sure to check out our wallpaper section for new Elder Scrolls Online wallpapers for your all your electronic devices. Remember, ESO releases on April 4, 2014. Until next time!