ELSPA AND GAMING INDUSTRY REACTION TO DCMS SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT AND BYRON REVIEW CONSULTATION

Thursday 31st July/... ELSPA, the entertainment&leisure software publishers association, has spoken out today following the DCMS Select Committee report and the launch of the DCSF’s formal government consultation into age rating systems in the UK. Speaking today, Michael Rawlinson, Managing Director of ELSPA, the leading trade organisation which represents games publishers and an authority on videogaming, said: On the DCMS Select Committee report:“We agree entirely that there should be a single ratings system for interactive games because it’s the only way that we can ensure that parents understand how videogames ratings protect their children, both on and offline, now and in the future.”

“We believe the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) ratings system is the only one that truly protects children, understands the interactive nature of rating games and is the only system endorsed by the games industry. It offers a strict classification system, based on international standards and detailed criteria which is scaleable and robust enough to cope with rating the explosion of gaming content that is becoming available online everyday and is the only system that is truly international.”

“Whilst we respect the decision that the Select Committee has come to, neither we nor the games industry, which we represent, think it adequately covers the key recommendations of the Byron Review, specifically in relation to the protection of children.”

On the public consultation into age rating:

“We welcome the public consultation into the proposed changes to the rating system recommended by the Byron Review and look forward to engaging fully in the process. Dr Byron’s recommendation of an extension of the hybrid, two tier classification system has always, in our opinion, been unworkable. It is now evident that the DCMS Select Committee shares our view.”

“However, we believe that the recommendation by the select committee that the BBFC be the single rating system offers no additional protection to children, may increase confusion between films and interactive games, and potentially will incur increased costs to the industry. We are also concerned that it does not fully address the scope for the exponential growth of and increasing internationalisation of online gaming, further exposing British children to potential risk.”

“PEGI offers the only ratings system that can fully assess all game content. It currently rates 96% of all games released in the UK as opposed to only 4% which the BBFC assess.”

“PEGI is the only rating system that has the power to prevent games publishers distributing unsuitable content to children if it abuses or misuses the system. It understands and operates in the online world already through the PEGI Online safety code, established with the support of the European commission– it has the highest levels of customer and parental understanding and confidence on and offline in 29 countries.”

Michael Rawlinson is an experienced interview subject, available for print and broadcast interviews. He can inform, debate and comment. He has been Managing Director of ELSPA since 2006, and established PEGI between 2001 and 2003.

For national media interviews or more information about ELSPA, please contact Will Brown (07872 604199) or Felicity McKane (020 3 003 6431) or at Freud Communications. Email: Will.Brown@freud.com ; Felicity.McKane@freud.com

For video games-related media enquiries, please contact Tom Sargent at Barrington Harvey: +44 (0) 1462 456780 or email tom.sargent@bhpr.co.uk

Relevant Games industry reactions to Select Committee and Byron Review Consultation:

David Yarnton, UK General Manager of Nintendo:

“The PEGI age ratings system is favoured by Nintendo. It has the ability to assess and rate all game content and does not rely on a sample of game play to form its decisions. The fact that there is also an EC proposal for member states to adopt PEGI only adds further weight to the solid arguments and facts for its UK adoption as the sole system of choice for games ratings”

David Reeves, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe:

“As a leading platform holder, our number one priority following the UK Byron report is the protection of children from inappropriate content for video games in both the on-line and off-line environments. We firmly believe that the Games Industry needs one system for ratings, which has high awareness, is clearly understood by all and legally enforceable.. At the present time our thinking is that a European wide, rather than a local system, would be preferred and that a 'modernised', Industry funded, forward looking system such as provided by PEGI would offer the best solution and the best protection for children.”

Neil Thompson, Senior Regional Director, Microsoft Ltd.:

“Microsoft is committed to child safety which has led our efforts to ensure that there are consistent and effective remedies for parents. We support the principles upon which the PEGI rating system is based as they provide the consistency and clarity that parents are looking for when deciding what is appropriate for their children.”

Keith Ramsdale, Vice President and General Manager of Electronic Arts UK, Ireland and Nordics:

“PEGI is the only system that can keep pace with our fast moving industry to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content. The Government’s proposed changes will not only put minors at risk, it will slow the rating process overall and cause delays in getting hit games into the hands of British consumers.”

Rob Cooper, Managing Director of Ubisoft UK:

“The PEGI system is future proof. It’s as simple as that. It is a self-regulation system that is operated by experts that are best qualified and experienced to do the job. As an international business selling games across the World, we urge Government to understand the depth of importance of this decision as we enter a period in which games will grow exponentially.”

Notes to Editors:

Secondary Facts and Figures About The Computer Games Industry:

• The UK value of computer and video games sales of software, hardware and peripherals is£1.726 billion. (Source: ELSPA/Chart Track)

• The UK continues to be the largest market in Europe and the fourth largest market in the world, after the US, Japan and Canada. UK leisure software sales in 2007 totalled 78 million units. Since 1995, more than 335m units of leisure software have been sold in the UK. That is enough for every household in Britain to own almost nine titles each. (Source: Screen Digest)

• The UK computer and video games industry already exceeds cinema box office takings as well as spending on the rental of videocassettes and DVDs. In fact, the UK interactive software market in 2002 was more than double the size of the British video rental market and 1.4 times more than cinema box office spending - which itself is enjoying record breaking growth. (Source: Screen Digest)

• British developed games generated more than£1.1billion in retail sales outside the UK in year 2000. 33% of all PS2 games bought in Europe originate in the UK (the same proportion as US originated products and ahead of Japan and any other country). (Source: Screen Digest)

• 3% of games titles published in 2007 from a total of 1,231, were rated by the BBFC as 18, a grand total of just 29! (Source: Video Standards Council)

• It is estimated that piracy costs the UK video games industry in excess of£2 billion at retail value. (Source: ELSPA)

• The video games industry employs over 22,000 people - in development, distribution, retail, printing and other support areas - making it by far the largest software employment field in Europe. (Source: Screen Digest)

• The biggest selling game series in the world with UK sales well in excess of two million is Grand Theft Auto, developed and produced in the UK by Rockstar North and published by American company Take 2 Interactive, whose European HQ is in Windsor, Berkshire. The launch of Grand Theft Auto IV in April 2008 was the biggest ever media release in the UK. The game broke all records when it sold 609,000 copies on the first day of its release. GTA IV went on to sell six million copies and take£39.9 million in its first week on sale.

Background to Byron:

In September 2007 the Prime Minster asked Dr Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist and mother of two to lead an independent review into children and new technology. Byron set out an ambitious action plan for Government, industry and families to work together to support children’s safety online and to reduce access to adult video games. Her report was issued in March 2008.

The Consultation period for the Byron Review has been announced today (Thursday July 31). The DCMS says the consultation period will run for four months.

About PEGI:

The Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system was established in 2003 to help European parents make informed decisions on buying interactive games. Designed to ensure that minors are not exposed to games that are unsuitable for their particular age group, the system is supported by the major console manufacturers, including PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo, as well as by publishers and developers of interactive games throughout Europe. The age rating system has been developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and has the enthusiastic support of the European Commission, who considers the new system to be a model of European harmonisation in the field of protection of children.

PEGI applies to products distributed in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

About ELSPA:

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association Ltd was founded in 1989 to establish a specific and collective identity for the interactive leisure software industry. Membership includes almost all companies concerned with the publishing and distribution of interactive leisure software in the UK.

As a gateway to Europe, ELSPA works to protect, promote and provide for the interests of all its members, as well as addressing issues that affect the industry as a whole.

To arrange national media interviews or for more information about ELSPA, please contact:

Will Brown (07872 604199) or Felicity McKane (020 3 003 6431) or at Freud Communications. Email: Will.Brown@freud.com; Felicity.McKane@freud.com


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