Happy Birthday PEGI

PEGI, the Pan European Game Information system that provides harmonized age classification of interactive software throughout Europe is poised to celebrate its first two years of operations. Time to take stock and to look at the future.

PEGI is the first ever pan-European rating system developed by the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) to provide consumers with an independent evaluated recommendation regarding the age class for which a computer or video game is suitable. It was developed between May 2001 and May 2002 by a working group of multinational, multi-trade experts representing governments, associations, academia and the game industry.

Growing numbers

As a result, the Netherlands Institute for the Classification of Audiovisual Media (NICAM) and the Video Standards Council (VSC) were commissioned to administer the system. In January 2003, they began to train coders to work with the PEGI classification. Within a month, they received the first applications for a PEGI license. In early April 2003, the first PEGI rated games appeared on retail shelves. Today, more than 2500 games have already been rated and over 120 publishing companies throughout the world have signed up to have their products fly the PEGI colours (see the full array of logos and descriptors below).

The breakdown of those 2584 games by age class is very telling of the actual product line offered by the interactive software industry

Age label – ratings – percentage
3+ – 1219 – 47%
7+ – 227 – 9%
12+ – 720 – 28%
16+ – 347 – 13%
18+ – 71 – 3%
Total – 2584 – 100%

Early support from the European Commission

A successful self-regulation and a leading example of a pan-European co-operation that extends beyond the EU, PEGI has enjoyed the strong support of the European Commission from the beginning. “I do believe that you have to aim, whenever possible in European regulations, for a bottom up system and not a top down one”, said the European Commissioner for Education and Culture Viviane Reding on inaugurating the PEGI Boards in October 2003, “and that is why I find the PEGI initiative important”.

Key among the two structures meant to secure PEGI’s independence, hence its credibility, is the PEGI Advisory Board (PAB), a stand-alone body of 15 experts, mainly with a government background, whose brief is to make recommendations to help the PEGI system steer the proper course in the midst of changes in law, in technology, and, more importantly, in the broader political and social environment. At their latest plenary session in Rome, they identified a number of interesting new challenges and issued related recommendations.

Fast recognition

Not only has PEGI enjoyed the strong support of EU institutions from the start, it has been quick to make a name for itself among European consumers. 15 months after the PEGI colours started flying on games available in stores throughout Europe, ISFE commissioned Nielsen Interactive Europe to conduct a survey of consumers in the five leading markets. It appears that PEGI is faring well as far as its recognition is concerned. Compared with numbers taken in Australia, a territory with a smaller population and a common language, 3 years after the OFLC launched its own age rating system, those coming out of the Nielsen survey look pretty encouraging 59% of respondents said that they were aware of a game rating system in Europe against 42% in Australia. Among the players’ community, the results are pretty close 69% for PEGI vs 74% in Australia.