Pan-European rating board PEGI, which was established under Belgian law and operates throughout most of Europe, will now automatically issue a PEGI-18 rating for new games that feature simulated gambling.
This change apparently went into effect in 2020, but was noticed yesterday by AskAboutGames editor Andy Robinson while reviewing the rating for inkle’s latest interactive story game Overboard. Overboard is a reverse murder-mystery simulator where the player attempts to get away with murder on a cruise ship.
The game does feature mild violence, suggestively sexual themes, and depiction of alcohol use. But a scene where you can play Blackjack with another character caused the ratings board to apply a PEGI-18 rating to the game.
A PEGI spokesperson clarified to Game Developer that the new policy only impacts new games, and will not apply to rereleased games that previously only earned a lower PEGI rating.
As an example, the spokesperson said that if older Pokémon games were to be re-issued (without any substantial changes that would lead the board to classify it as a new game), they would retain their PEGI-12 ratings even though they feature slot machines and other kinds of simulated gambling.
“When we implemented the criterion change in the first part of 2020, we made the conscious decision not to apply the change retroactively,” the spokesperson said. “We wanted to avoid that the exact same game can be found in a shop for two different consoles with two different age ratings.”
This change comes as regulators across the globe have begun to take a closer look to gambling-adjacent mechanics (like loot boxes) in games that might be played by minors. A recent U.K study did find a correlation between the use of systems like loot boxes and “problem gambling.”