Traffic light ratings to go live this spring

PEGI to drop current imagery in favour of more universal labelling, but UK may not get new ratings at all

PEGI, the Pan European Games Information system, is to introduce its traffic light system to games packaging in mainland Europe this spring.

While age rating symbols have not yet been finalised, the current imagery depicting a spider, fist, syringe and other artwork, will be expanded upon to include descriptive text.

Age ratings will be coloured rather than the current black and white, but the mock-up image first unveiled last month will be tweaked to avoid copyright issues with PEGI's UK rival, the British Board of Film Classification.

"PEGI has agreed those changes and they will be implemented as part of the PEGI system in the new year, probably in the spring by the time the information has been transmitted to all publishers and incorporated as part of the approvals process for the format holders," detailed Michael Rawlinson, managing director of ELSPA, to

However, whether the new traffic light system will be used in the UK is still up in the air and will not become clear until the government finishes reviewing information submitted following the end of the consultation on age ratings, first initiated as part of the Byron review.

"Whether they will appear on boxes in the UK will depend on the outcome of this consultation period and the decision made by the UK government in the new year," said Rawlinson.

"The introduction of traffic light colours and changes to the descriptors have been approved, they are now being worked through with lawyers to ensure they do not infringe any existing trademarks and can be adopted smoothly," added ELSPA

Copyright is a sticky issue for the age ratings system. The BBFC, which specifically rates games in the UK, uses colour-coded symbols already, and is currently watching PEGI for violation of its established imagery.

"We have challenged a number of organisations who have come up with symbols that look very close to BBFC symbols," said David Cooke, director of the BBFC.

"There are legal restraints on what's called 'passing off', so we'll have to see what they look like. It's about making sure our protections are honoured and partly a matter of making sure that things aren't made more confusing for the public."

Over the past four months, ELSPA and PEGI have publicly attacked the BBFC as incapable of rating videogames, as all three organisations prepared evidence and research for the government's consultation period, which ends today.

However, the government hasn't given a time frame for any conclusions on who will manage the future of games ratings in the UK, with a decision expected in the first quarter of next year.

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