In January, Bethesda announced Elder Scrolls Online received an M-for-Mature rating from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Bethesda didn’t agree with the rating, but said it would not challenge it.
Today, the ESRB released the product description for The Elder Scrolls Online. This description gives us some details on why the game was rated Mature. The ESRB describes the game as containing “Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence.”
The full description reads:
This is a multiplayer online role-playing game in which players assume the role of a warrior in the fantastical world of Nirn. As players explore open-world environments, they can perform various quests and complete tasks. Characters use swords, arrows, axes, and magic attacks (e.g., lightning, fire attacks) to kill human-like and fantastical enemies (e.g., orcs, demons, giant insects). Players engage in melee-style combat, hacking and slashing at various enemies; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, impact sounds, and blood splashes. Some sequences depict large amounts of blood streaming up-close as vampires attack/feed on characters. 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 (e.g., “She…raped the men as cruelly as Bal had ravished her”; “In his mind, she would be the sheath to every knight’s blade”; “No sweetmeat for you”; But it is huge! It could take me all night!”). During the course of the game, alcohol (i.e., wine, mead, ale) can be purchased and consumed by the central character; one sequence prompts players to engage in a drinking contest, resulting in the central character’s blurred vision/slurred speech.
Yeah… I don’t see what Bethesda is disagreeing about. No way that gets a Teen rating. The ESRB also notes that since the game includes online features, players may be exposed to unrated user generated content.
Previous Elder Scrolls games including Skyrim and Oblivion were also rated Mature.
Still, MMOs don’t tend to be Mature rated games. World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic are all rated Teen.
It’s not completely unheard of though. The Secret World was rated Mature.
The Mature rating could have an impact on sales of the game. MMOs in general aim for a Teen rating. And, it’s clear Bethesda was doing the same since they don’t agree with the rating. Parents may think twice before buying the game for their kids if they see a Mature rating. But, concerned parents are in the minority. The impact of the Mature rating on sales will be negligible.
It’s something to note, however. I can’t think of a wildly successful MMO that was rated Mature.
Elder Scrolls Online is nearly certain to have a successful launch. The main question is, can it sustain an MMO audience? You can’t ride the hype of your IP to MMO success. Just look at Star Wars.
Elder Scrolls Online will hit PC and Mac on April 4. Next-gen versions will follow-up in June. Elder Scrolls Online will have a $15/month subscription.