A Major Player in the Video Game Industry
Let’s be honest, when you think of video games, France isn’t exactly the first country that springs to mind. That would be Japan, or perhaps the U.S.A. Something you may not know, however, is that the French market is one of the largest consumers of video games in the world, surpassed only by Britain and Germany in Europe Video game publishing giant Ubisoft is a French company, with its headquarters in Montreuil, while last year’s Paris Games Week played host to over 212,000 visitors, demonstrating just how prevalent video gaming is in France.
With video games playing such a prominent role in the media, it’s no wonder that France soon it necessary to bring an age rating system into place and, while age ratings labels are not enforced upon games publishers, most retailers require them to be displayed on all games. They use the European standard for video game age rating, PEGI (Pan European Game Information), which was founded in 2003 and is now used in over 30 different countries.
The purpose of PEGI is to unify the age classification of games across Europe. In some countries it is the official body for rating games, whereas in others (such as Germany and, until recently, the UK) it is used as a secondary system alongside another national authority. In other countries still, it is used, but with no official legislation. For France, it is the sole authority on video game age rating.
Prior to PEGI, the organization responsible for rating games was SELL (Syndicat des éditeurs de logiciels de loisirs), a federation of interactive software publishers dedicated to promoting the interests of video game developers. It used a four tier system – ‘suitable for all’, ‘suitable for 12 years and over’, ‘suitable for 16 years and over’ and ‘suitable for 18 years and over’ – and rated games from 1999 until it was replaced by PEGI in 2003.
France – Liberation Nation?
When it comes to video games, France appears to be one of the most liberal nations. Unlike many of its neighbors, France has never banned a game. In fact, the closest game ever to come to receiving a ban is Sanitarium (2005), which was taken off of shop shelves one week after its release. This followed a protest by Familles de France , which found the game to be unhealthy, macabre, and seedy.
Familles de France is a consumer organization and confederation of family associations that claims to represent the entire French demographic and monitors different forms of media accessible to the public, voicing concerns over what is and is not appropriate. Their stance on video games tends to be rather conservative, perhaps owing to their prominently Christian underlying principles, claiming that video games are not educational and should be better regulated. As a consequence, they seek to limit the amount of sex and violence represented in games.
So far their presence has had little effect on the video game industry, aside from the aforementioned case of Sanitarium. This is, perhaps, because France has no specific law that relates directly to video games. Instead, the legislation makes reference to ‘any document that can be read electronically in an analog or digital way,’ making it slightly more difficult to target video games in particular. However, Fallout 2 (1998) was released to the French market as a censored version in which it was impossible to meet or shoot children.
Although France subscribes to the PEGI system of rating games, it is not actually illegal to sell a restricted game to somebody underage, rendering PEGI as more of a set of guidelines than regimented rules.
The table below provides a detailed explanation of the PEGI system:
Localizing for the French Market
What game publishers can take from this is that, in reality, localizing a game to the French market and aiming to achieve a particular age rating is relatively easy. Publishers can rest assured that France follows the PEGI system with little difficulty, and extreme content is unlikely to receive a ban. Due to the country’s laidback laws surrounding video games and a lack of strict enforcement and regulation, restricted games may even have a larger market base than in other European countries, owing to the fact that minors may still, in some cases, purchase restricted games. Publishers should, however, bear in mind that this may change in the near future and that some retailers are still entitled to enforce the age recommendations. Moreover, the content of the game should still reflect its target audience.
At MoGi Group, our team of native speaking French translators has years of experience in translating games for the French market. With our age rating consultancy services for video games, we can tell you exactly what you need to do to reach the rating that you wish to target. This knowledge is backed by detailed experience in localizing games for languages and countries all around the world, meaning that we can help you with any market.
Contact us today to find out how we can help you to achieve a particular rating in your chosen countries.