ESRB defends its ‘tough love’ stance, 3D Realms scoffs

Sometime back in early July, 3D Realms found itself on the receiving end of a nastygram from the self-governing ESRB. The warning as it turned out, was in response to several infractions of non-compliance found on their website. They were swiftly given 10 days to comply, or face heavy fines of $10,000 per occurrence — as well as suspension of ESRB rating services for all of their games. It was a pretty sobering experience, as Scott Miller, CEO and founder of 3D Realms recalled:

“To say I was shocked is an understatement. The letter came from out of the blue giving us only 10 days to comply and it didn’t even occur to them to send us the correct graphics or even link to where we might find them. Boy, I sure do feel good about having these guys as our industry overlords. The Dark Side is in control.”

The funny thing was (as Miller observed), the 31 infractions in question concerned games that were at least 6-8 years old, and whose descriptions at the time were well within the ESRB’s minimal accepted requirements: 

 “Am I supposed to know that every time the ESRB updates its icons, I need to update mine? How would I know that? I wonder how many other developers are aware of this requirement?”

Catch the Dark Sides ESRB’s response and more, after the jump. 

So what does Patricia Vance of the ESRB have to say about this? Something down the lines of “Sorry about those fragile feelings you have there, Mr. Miller — but we have a job to do. Oh, and by the way, ignorance is no excuse, and nobody else complains.”

“It’s unfortunate that Mr. Miller’s feelings were hurt, but let’s be clear. The ESRB is the self-regulatory body for the video game industry. We were established by the industry and we simply enforce the rules and guidelines that the industry has imposed upon itself. The games industry determined that there should be rules with regard to the proper display of rating information and that ESRB should enforce those rules by notifying companies who are not in compliance. We created a standard notice by which to do so, and that’s precisely what Mr. Miller received. 

“Unfortunately, due to 3D Realms’ lack of experience submitting games to the ESRB, it would appear that they were unaware of the various industry guidelines in place and the consequences of not complying with those guidelines. However, that possibility aside, many other companies have received similar notices over the years and not one of them has ever complained about their tone. To the contrary, they are typically grateful for the information and being given the opportunity to fix the problem without further enforcement measures being necessary.”

Does this sound like tough love to you, or has the ESRB started to overcompensate for being criticized as being a bit too lax in its early years? Scott Miller seems to think that the latter applies in his case. After all, they were called to the carpet (as he says) over questionable graphics in old games that they don’t even think about any more. Perhaps this is more a matter of appeasing public perception of the ESRB, than looking out for the best interests of all involved. What do you think?

[Via GameDailyBiz — Thanks to Topher for the pic!]