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ESRB: ‘Mature’ games only 9% of industry

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Grand Theft Auto V (Credit: Rockstar Games)

They’re at the center of an increasingly heated debate these days, but when you look at the hard numbers, games carrying a ‘Mature’ rating aren’t quite as big a part of the video game industry as they seem.

The ESRB -- the board that assigns ratings to games released in the U.S. and Canada -- says only 9 percent of the 1,218 games released last year received an ‘M’ rating. Such games are intended for those 17 and up and "may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language."

The 9% mark makes M-rated games the smallest of all ESRB categories. E-rated games (the equivalent of G-rated movies) were the industry’s most prevalent, comprising 45 percent of all titles released in 2012. E10+ games (suitable for ages 10 and up) came in at 22 percent, while games rated ‘Teen’ made up 24 percent of releases.

The percentage of M-rated titles in 2012 matched the number from 2011, though both years were 4 percent higher than the 2010 totals, reports USA Today.

While the sheer numbers are fairly low, Mature games still make up a notable percentage of the industry’s income. Five of the 10 best-selling games in 2012 carried an M rating. The year’s top selling title – the M-rated Call of Duty: Black Ops II – earned $1 billion in a scant 15 days.

From the look of things, 2013 won’t be much different in terms of sales. The year’s two best-selling games are widely expected expected to be this fall’s Call of Duty installment and Grand Theft Auto V, both of which are guaranteed ‘M’ ratings.

The bigger question is whether those sales numbers will be higher this year. The NPD Group this week released updated sales numbers for 2012, factoring in both digital and retail sales. While players spent $14.8 billion overall on games, that was still a 9 percent drop from 2011’s $16.3 million.

Analysts hope the combination of a new GTA game and new console systems will turn things around in 2013.

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