Representative Jim Matheson of Utah introduced a bill on 1/15/2013 which would require ESRB ratings on games. Some folks feel this would put an undo burden on indie game developers. There would be a $5000 fine for violations, and I know that would sink Dormouse Games at the time of writing this.
However, from my reading of it the bill itself doesn’t mention anything about games online. Now I am not a professional lobbyist, but this seems relatively simple. It says
“Conduct Prohibited.–It shall be unlawful for any person to
ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce, or to sell or
rent, a video game that does not contain a rating label, in a clear and
conspicuous location on the outside packaging of the video game,
containing an age-based content rating determined by the Entertainment
Software Ratings Board."
That appears to effect Dormouse Games very little. We have no intention whatsoever to issue a game with packaging, to a retail location. So this would hurt established game companies more then indies. Assuming Indie game development companies don’t want to put games in packages. Then again larger companies could simply move to digital distribution. They could also enforce the law completely differently then worded here. There could be some translation issues between Legislative and Judicial wording.
I have asked some advice of some friends down in Washington. They aren’t directly involved with this bill, but have more experience reading bills. Recap of their response here. What do you think about my interpretation of the wording of the bill? Am I not understanding the legal ramifications of the wording? Are you worried about this?