If you’re around the median age of most video game players–which the Entertainment Software Association says is about 35 years old–then chances are that you’ve got more than a few M-rated games on your shelf. Roughly equivalent to the R film rating issued by the MPAA, ‘M’ (for “Mature”) stands at the highest age bracket for video game categorization. You need to be 17 and older to be able to purchase titles like Bulletstorm or Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood.
Still, for all the attention and controversy M-rated games can get, they don’t account for the majority of title ratings. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board just released statistics that show that 55% of the ratings they assigned in 2010 garnered were “E” (“Everyone”), followed by “T” (“Teen”) at 21%. The big, bad M-rating games made up only a measly 5%. Not all the games that the ESRB rates are released at retail, but the ones that are show another pattern.
The real rub there comes when you compare that percentage against the earnings raked in by that 5%. Of course, last year saw record-setting sales by Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops, but those are only part of the story. Per Ars Technica, five of the ten top-selling games in 2010 were rated “M.”
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Madden NFL 11
New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Red Dead Redemption
Wii Fit Plus
Just Dance 2
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
The article goes on to state that, in the million-selling threshold, 27% were “E” or “E10+” and 12% were rated mature. So what does all this wide-ranging sales and rating data tell us? Just stuff that we kinda already know: The hysterics around video games destroying the moral fiber of America’s youth is vastly overstated and no one goes into the game store thinking “I’m going to buy an M-rated game today!” Just as in movies and books and music, people make purchasing decisions based on content and quality. It’s no coincidence that all those M-rated games in the top ten happened to be very good.