The European Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) has hit out at the Byron Review’s recommendations for overhauling the current games rating system, with concerns that the BBFC is unprepared to handle the massive increase in workload involved in assessing and rating all games that require a 12, 15 or 18 age rating.

The industry needs to be “re-assured that the BBFC would be capable of delivering against any new remit, or whether PEGI may be more appropriate," said ELSPA director general Paul Jackson in a statemen.

Jackson continues: “We are concerned that the proposals as they stand may struggle to keep up with the public’s increasing desire to buy and play on-line.”

TIGA backs ELSPA

TechRadar spoke with Richard Wilson, chief exec at TIGA – the industry body for games developers – who backed ELSPA’s stance, telling us:

“As for PEGI and the BBFC, the development sector will have to look at the consultation document that the government will now have to bring out.

Wilson added: “As far as the BBFC goes, I have some sympathy with ELSPA as their [BBFC's] workload could be increased sixfold… the government must ensure that the BBFC is properly funded.”

BBFC pleased

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, said in a statement: “I warmly welcome Dr Byron’s report.  She has listened very carefully to all the arguments, and exercised her independent and expert judgement.

“It is clear from Dr Byron’s report that games classification is less well understood that that for films and DVDs.  We all need to work hard to bring understanding up to the same level, and help parents and children make informed choices.  Games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are for adults, and should be treated in the same way as ‘18’ rated films and DVDs.    

“I welcome the film-style classification system and greater role for the BBFC which she recommends in paragraph 7.47 of her report,” adds Cooke.  

Holds power to ban

“At the BBFC we provide symbols which are trusted and understood; thorough,  independent examination by skilled games players; individually tailored health warnings, and also the full reasoning for the classification covering all the key issues; a cutting edge approach to online film and games content, including independent monitoring.

“We co-operate closely with the Pan European Games Information Systems (PEGI) and will continue to do so. Unlike PEGI, the BBFC has the power, in exceptional cases, to reject films, DVDs and games which have the potential to pose real harm risk.  

"We reject an average of two to three works a year (mostly DVDs) and will continue to do so where it is necessary to protect the public.  At the adult level, we respect the public expectation that adults should be free to choose except where there are real harm risks.  But we do not think it would be right to remove the reserve rejection power and we are pleased that Dr Byron agrees with this.

Who pays?

The bottom line is clearly down to hard cash and the fact that the games industry (and its representative organisation, ELSPA) has a massive vested interest in the PEGI system. 

Put simply, who is going to pay for all the extra work that will need to be done by the BBFC and others, should Ms Byron’s recommendations be properly put into practice?

“The BBFC rated 7500 works in the year 2000 (films/videos/DVDs) and 17000 works in 2007,” a BBFC rep told TechRadar earlier today. To put this into perspective, the BBFC rated 28 games in the year 2000 and 300 in 2006.

PEGI, meanwhile, rated 1400 titles in 2007 (not 1400 individual titles, but across various formats) – excluding the 250 which were rated by the BBFC, which gives a good idea of the considerable increase in workload faced by the BBFC should Byron’s recommendations be acted upon.

“At the very least the cost should be shared between the government and the games industry,” TIGA’s Richard Wilson told us.

TechRadar has contacted ELSPA for further comment on the above story, so stay tuned for updates as we get them.