The ESRB has clarified its position on age ratings for game trailers following reports that it has issued warning notices to two publishers.
In a statement, ESRB president Patricia Vance said that the board's Advertising Review Council "regularly monitors game ads and trailers" to ensure they adhere to "industry-adopted Principles and Guidelines for Responsible Advertising Practices which were established in 2000".
"Since 2005, ARC guidelines have required that trailers for M-rated games on publisher websites be displayed behind an age gate to help restrict viewing to those visitors who are 17 and older," Vance continued. "Game publishers are also required to use best efforts with respect to ensuring the presence of age gates on third party websites that display their M-rated game trailers.
"If a third party site insists on carrying a trailer for an M-rated game without placing it behind an age gate, our guidelines require the publisher to request that such trailer be removed and/or provide an edited version of the trailer to be used in its place."
Vance's comments come after D3 Publisher issued a statement which read, "We recently received a ruling from the ESRB stating that the two officially released Dark Sector gameplay montages have been deemed to contain excessive or offensive content."
As a result, D3 said, the montages "are not to be available for download or viewing, regardless of being placed behind an age gate", and should be "pulled immediately" so that they are no longer available for consumers to view.
Gamasutra is reporting that 2K Games received a similar notice from the ESRB. It was told that trailers for M or AO-rated games must be "appropriately age-gated." If not, the game publisher could be subject to enforcement actions. The trailer for 2K's The Darkness game has apparently been rated by the ESRB separately from the game.
Even with age gates, however, publishers are not able to place any and all content into game trailers.
"All trailers must still conform to ARC's Principles and Guidelines, which prohibit the display of excessively violent content or any content likely to cause serious offense to the average consumer," said Vance.
"The notices issued recently by game publishers to third party websites are simply that - steps in a chain of publisher compliance with ARC guidelines and the ESRB enforcement system that have been occurring since their establishment seven years ago."