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Wartune advertising runs afoul of ESRB

Wartune advertising runs afoul of ESRB

Fri 10 May 2013 4:18pm GMT / 12:18pm EDT / 9:18am PDT
Advertising

Free-to-play online game uses Adults Only rating as selling point, even though it's never been rated at all

The free-to-play online game Wartune has drawn the attention of the Entertainment Software Rating Board. Online advertising for the game has been using the ESRB's AO for Adults Only rating as a selling point, even though the turn-based role-playing game has not actually been rated by the ESRB.

"We have advised the game's publisher that they must discontinue their unauthorized use of our AO rating icon in its marketing," an ESRB representative told GamesIndustry International.

Even if the game had been rated AO, the ads would likely violate the ESRB's advertising guidelines, which state no ad should "glamorize or exploit" a game's rating. The Wartune ads, which have been running on Google's AdSense network and featured on websites like Microsoft's Major Nelson promotional blog, feature the tagline "Adult Gamers Only" and the ESRB's trademarked AO logo next to a scantily clad angel, both positioned more prominently than the actual name of the game.

The ESRB did not specify which company it contacted about the Wartune ad. Developed by 7 Road, the online game is currently hosted by numerous companies online, including Kabam, Kongregate, Armor Games, NGames, R2Games, and Proficient City Limited.

"While it's fairly rare for a game to self-apply a rating we will always move quickly to address the issue," the ESRB representative said. "Our goal is, of course, that they immediately stop using the rating. If a game is digitally distributed, we also encourage companies to use our Digital Rating Service, which is fast and easy and assigns ratings without the developer having to pay a fee."

4 Comments

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Finally, I wasn't the only one to notice.

The actual game is nothing like adult content or themes though. We are far from Scarlet Blade based on the anime Queen's blade which is borderline porn-ish and the game also being advertized as a mature themed one (while we can of course discuss what "mature" means here).

You can also see the chinese promotional trailer combining real flesh and some "CGI" here.

Obviously there are much less debates about female sexual objectification in the Asian Culture (uncanny valley???), or at least amongst their industry and a much finer line, if any, between adult content and mainstream content, although my knowledge of Japanese, Chinese and Korean culture is purely stereotypical so it is hard for me to comment accurately.

I would like a to see a column or two about that on GamesIndustry.biz, since a lot of western companies publish those games and well, as this article shows more or less indirectly support some of the dodgy advertizing/promotional methods (or popularisation of Hentai and/or Lolicon in video games with no real frontier with other games as they are advertized and accessible from the same portals as most other games aiming at a younger audience, which pretty much contradicts the "adult only" thingy).

Edited 6 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 11th May 2013 12:26pm

Posted:A year ago

#1

Eric Pallavicini
Game Master

259 165 0.6
Don't get me wrong, I am no puritan nor do I intend to be. My questioning is more about the cultural evolution than anything else, as I can go through this without any issue if it was for myself (and it doesn't affect my views on women either which I believe to be pretty fair), but fact is I am working with the communities and with such games and their graphic atmosphere and it gets harder and harder to know what becomes culturally and legally acceptable and what doesn't, especially when it comes to dealing with user's comments and user posted content which is more than often conflicting with most company's policies or even governmental laws while the context provided by the publisher is, well let's face it, calling for those things to happen...

Now of course, in the case of Wartune, from what I saw (a colleague plays the game, I did not) there is absolutely no reason for this game to be rated mature (though I did not see the character selection/creation screen and maybe there there is something) and somehow that would mean, beside the use of the logo, that this is kind of misleading advertizing (with an obvious purpose and for obvious reasons, get a specific audience to try the game).

As an other example, in Germany the Swastika symbol if being forbidden by law and well many other symbols about the WWII period and the Nazi regime. Bethesda recently teased its upcoming production based on the Wolfenstein IP, Wolfenstein : the new order[link] where Nazi symbols like the swastika flag and Schutzstaffel iconography are all over the place (could probably be replaced by the Wehrmacht's Iron Cross I guess if they want to sell it in Germany without anyone raising shields, though well controversy can be free advertizing as well). Of course, the idea behind the restriction is not to make a global societal taboo but avoiding any kind of apologia or praise of the National Socialist regime/ideology and its historical downward spiral. But somehow it also creates a zone of discomfort where even crossing one's mind with any mention of those historical facts become an issue, whenever the intent is not being to praise them.

What is happening with women representation in games is starting to be quite the opposite as it seems more and more that borderline porn content (when it is not borderline pedophilia) become accepted by the audience who seems to find nudity and sexual representations acceptable at nearly any age, as long as it is undercover of some more or less fantasy or fictional approach "Nah Mr Judge, it is not a 13 years old girl that is depicted, it is a [insert cute name] alien that just look like a 13 years old girl, but it's an alien - see it has horns - and it is actually 240 years old I assure you. So our games definitely not depict any scantily clad 13 years old girls. How and by the way, beside the school and nurse uniforms, we also are going to implement the traditional British judge robe complete with wig for this character, a revisited version of it at least should you be interested to check it out".

So I am really wondering if we're not playing with fire, and well also if whoever is employed to be first line of contact are not the ones who will get burned. If a columnist could actually have a more insightful approach to those issues, I'd be glad to read them. Also I'd be glad if I could be enlightened on where "sexy" starts and where it ends to become "porn" or if you prefer the wording "mature content" (which is often far to be mature in the intellectual sense of the word, to be honest).

Edited 8 times. Last edit by Eric Pallavicini on 11th May 2013 1:15pm

Posted:A year ago

#2

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

869 1,277 1.5
I saw an ad for this on gameinformer.com but wasn't intrigued enough to click on it. And this is coming from someone who actually owns Japanese mahjong games:)

Posted:A year ago

#3

Edward Buffery
Pre-production Manager

148 96 0.6
Not having seen either actual game, the Wartune adverts looked just like the next Evony adverts that cropped up everywhere a few years back. They got pretty damn ridiculous towards the end, and I believe they eventually got sued for directly copying images from porn DVDs and lingerie magazines.

Posted:A year ago

#4

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