The Entertainment Software Rating Board is releasing new standards for downloadble games and a new tool to make it easier for developers to obtain ratings. (Courtesy of the Entertainment Software Rating Board/Courtesy of the Entertainment Software Rating Board)

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board announced Wednesday that it’s introducing new tools for game developers who distribute their titles over the Web.

The ratings board, responsible for the age and content ratings that appear on the games on store shelves, has provided a tool to make it easier for Internet-focused developers to get ratings, as well as new standards for a more-connected world.

“It’s a new day for ratings,” said ESRB president Patricia Vance in an interview with The Washington Post. “We’re evolving as the industry evolves, addressing the needs of the digital marketplace.”

Developers using the ESRB’s new digital rating service will be able to receive a rating quickly and for free by filling out a questionnaire on their game. The rating survey won’t simply include questions about age-appropriateness and content. It will also ask developers for information on whether or not they share players’ personal information with third parties, share location information with third parties or contain any sort of user-generated or interactive content.

Vance said that it was important to include these disclosures up-front, as they are ”equally as important to age-appropriateness.”

By introducing the rating system to games that rely on digital distribution, Vance said, developers will be able to better communicate their nature to consumers.

She also said that the questionnaire makes it easier for more casual developers to obtain ratings — which are required for some distribution platforms.

“[This system] has been the standard in the games industry,” Vance said. “There’s an expectation that the ESRB rating will be available regardless of the device. We’re hopeful consumers will have tools that they’re looking for and expect going forward.”

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