ELSPA has quashed any suggestion that the PEGI classification model will be ‘weaker’ than the BBFC regime – warning publishers they risk bankruptcy if they try to cheat the system.
Under the new model, publishers will fill in a questionnaire on the content of their game and submit it to PEGI and the Video Standards Council – who will then decide on an appropriate rating.
Publishers caught telling lies in their questionnaire will face fines of up to €500,000 – and could even see their games stripped from the shelves of all European retailers.
“I’m confident that publishers will be truthful,” ELSPA director general Michael Rawlinson told MCV. “We will all lose out as an industry if this system is not seen to be absolutely transparent and absolutely followed by the publishing community.
“More importantly, if a publisher misleads PEGI, they will be fined up to half a million Euros – and be refused official ratings. That will prevent them from publishing on all major platforms in Europe.”
Director of communications and public affairs at ELSPA Tim Wapshott added: “If you deliberately mislead us, you will be thrown out. In the worst-case scenario, you will be disqualified from releasing a game anywhere across Europe.
"That means we effectively bankrupt you as a profit-making organisation. No other system [such as the BBFC] could say: ‘You know what? You’ve just lost about a third of the world’s sales in one go. And we don’t owe you anything to say we’ll ever change our mind.’”
However, Rawlinson also moved to reassure publishers who make an honest error when filling out the PEGI questionnaire.
He added: “If there’s a genuine mistake then you shouldn’t be worried. In fact, PEGI has always been available to assist publishers in the completion of the process.
“Before your game’s finished, if you need advice or help, PEGI is always happy to look at pre-release code.
“If people approach it genuinely and say, “I’m not sure”, that’s fine. It’s when they deliberately mislead that the problems arise.”