Just back from Leipzig and just about to head off to PAX (where he will presumably be assisting with Saturday afternoon’s WoW tournament), Bashiok took the time to offer a clarification in the forums. Someone asked about Jay Wilson’s Leipzig interview comment that Diablo III would strive for an 18+ rating.
In the US we have the ESRB, and other countries may have their own rating advisories and labels. For our ESRB rating and US release we have been and still are planning for a “M” for Mature rating.
The quote in question is found here:
Jay Wilson: The biggest thing is, that we are targeting not to be an 18+ game. If we were to get an 18+ rating, we would likely make some changes to the german edition, to make sure it would not get this rating. But we handle those things pretty far in advance. We are already talking about the rating and what qualifies as an 18+ rating in europe to make sure that we do not hit that level, because we definitely want to make sure that the game is sold here.
This isn’t an issue in the US for anything short of porn, since we are a savage and bloodthirsty nation, but game developers must be very careful to stay on the allowed side of the rather arbitrary “adults only” rating line in Germany and other EU nations, or suffer commercial suicide. For instance, games that get an 18+ rating in Germany’s USK rating system are banned from running ads in the mainstream media, can’t be openly displayed in stores, can only be sold to and played by adults, etc. It’s not just a question of cutting some blood splatter either; games have suffered major revisions to get past the ratings board, and it’s not unusual for major games to simply not be released in Germany, if their developers think the required cuts would destroy their artist vision. Just in the past few years, Microsoft elected not to release Gears of War, Ninja Gaiden 2, or Dead Rising in Germany. At all.
Given the huge popularity of the Diablo series in Germany, Blizzard will obviously do whatever it takes to keep their game from getting the dreaded 18+ USK rating. Fortunately, since it’s a fantasy game with magic and other elements of unrealism, they shouldn’t have the problem that the scifi and horror genres seem to have with current German censorship laws.