Game ratings are usually pretty easy to spot for most titles. It should come as no surprise that a game like Mortal Kombat X would get the 'M' for Mature rating or that annual sports titles like Madden NFL or NBA 2K usually nestle in with the E10+ audience. What is a surprise is that Batman: Arkham Knight just landed into Mortal Kombat territory with an 'M' rating.
IGN managed to get in word with Rocksteady's Sefton Hill, the game director for Arkham Knight, who stated...
"From our point of view, we never wrote it or made it with a rating in mind. We never did that in the previous two games... We just felt that this is the story that we really wanted to tell."
Hill was shocked and surprised at the rating because the previous outings from Rocksteady Games in the Arkham series were both rated 'T' for Teen, this includes Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City. The third game, which is actually a prequel, from WB Games Montreal was also rated 'T' for Teen.
Seeing the trend here?
The thing that surprises Hill as well is that this rating effectively cuts out a large part of the younger demographic – anyone under the age of 17 is not allowed to purchase the title without a guardian. According to Hill...
“I'm not blind to the fact that [the M rating] does mean some fans will miss out... I don't want to be oblivious to that fact. It would have been wrong to water down the game and deliver a story we didn't believe in to keep the game 'mass market' or enable it for more people. We feel that's the wrong way to go about it. We said we love the story and we don't want to jepoardize [sic] that."
I'm a little shocked myself. What exactly is it in the story that warrants the Mature rating? What happens in the game that the ESRB though it necessary? Or is it just the fact that the graphics are improved and the visual fidelity now makes it harder not to rate the game higher because of that?
Unfortunately, the entry isn't publicly available yet for Arkham Knight over on the ESRB's home page. If you search the game up you only get the previously released titles.
It's funny now that some studios are gunning for the Teen rating over the Mature rating due to the higher sales potential. It's a tactic that's pretty much equivalent to Hollywood releasing big blockbuster action movies as PG-13 popcorn fare instead of as a hard R film in order to appeal to as many moviegoers as possible.
Cutting out the younger audience could cause a dip in sales if there aren't enough older gamers out there willing to compensate for the loss of the demographic.
In the case of Batman: Arkham Knight, I'm not too worried about it. I get the feeling that a lot of gamers will be interested to see what exactly makes this Batman title worth the label of “Mature” by the ESRB. You won't have to wait too long to find out because Rocksteady's final title in the Arkham series is due for release on June 2nd, 2015 for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC.