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Gods Unchained, along with other blockchain games like Striker Manager 3, had previously been removed from the Epic Games Store due to receiving “Adults Only” rating scores from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Prior to Tuesday’s policy change, no games with an AO rating were allowed on Epic’s store.
“Some blockchain-based games are receiving Adults Only (AO) ratings from industry ratings bodies for their particular implementation of blockchain,” an Epic Games representative told Decrypt via email.
“We’ve updated our Epic Games Store content policy to allow for games that are rated AO solely due to the usage of blockchain or NFT technology,” the rep added.
📣 Heads up: Gods Unchained and Striker Manager 3 have returned to the Store after a change in our content policy regarding ratings for blockchain-based games. Learn more: https://t.co/RQGGzWGeG8
— Epic Games Store (@EpicGames) December 19, 2023
The ESRB assigns AO ratings to games it believes are only suitable for those over the age of 18. Gods Unchained was assigned an AO rating because it involves play-to-earn elements that can result in players receiving NFTs or crypto tokens that have “real-world value,” the ESRB previously explained to Decrypt.
“The ESRB age and content rating system assesses whether products may reward real money, prizes with real world value, or something that can be exchanged for or converted to real money (i.e., gift cards, cryptocurrency, etc.), as well as whether there is cash spent to be eligible for such rewards,” the ESRB previously told Decrypt.
AO ratings—the most restrictive type—are typically given to games that contain intense violence or graphic nudity and sexual themes. Both Xbox and PlayStation currently bar AO-rated games from their respective platforms.
Now, Epic Games is willing to make an exception to its no-AO games policy for blockchain games that would otherwise not be rated as such if not for their crypto or NFT elements.
The issue previously posed a massive catch-22 situation for game developers, because while Epic accepts blockchain games on its platform (unlike rival Steam), it previously didn’t accept AO-rated ones.
Epic Games emphasized that its policies against “gambling,” “porn,” and “hateful content,” remain in place, however, so blockchain game developers will have to continue to adhere to those restrictions.
While it’s likely that blockchain games offering “real-world value” to players will continue to receive Adults Only ESRB ratings, those ratings won’t stop them from being listed on the Epic Games Store, at least.
“We are pleased with the Epic Game Store decision to allow Gods Unchained back on the platform. We fully support the shift in their content policy," Immutable Games Chief Studio Officer Justin Hulog told Decrypt. "At Immutable, we continually advocate for the implementation of fair policies around Web3 games. We look forward to ongoing conversations with ratings boards and distribution platforms, like EGS, to ensure the best experience for all players."
Edited by Andrew Hayward
Editor's note: This story was updated after publication to add comment from Immutable.