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July 2, 2015

Submitting apps with age ratings in the unified Dev Center

Starting in May this year, we began migrating Dev Center accounts to the new dashboard, which has several improvements over the existing Windows Phone or Windows Dev Center dashboards. One of the enhancements is how app or game age ratings are handled for app submissions.

Once your account is migrated to the unified Dev Center you will see two changes to your app submissions:

  1. A unified age rating is required for every new or updated app and game
  2. The steps to add third-party age ratings have been streamlined

These changes are designed to simplify app submissions with age ratings, and to help consumers more easily identify the age-appropriateness of an app.

In this blog post, I’ll explain the age rating changes in depth, along with the process for submitting the ratings within the app submission flow.

An age rating is required for every new and updated app

In the unified Dev Center dashboard, every new app and game,  as well as every app and game update will require a Windows Store age rating. Though this was required for Windows apps, it was not available previously for Windows Phone apps.

To add an age rating, select “App properties” during the Dev Center app submission flow.

age ratings1

After selecting the Category and Subcategory for your app, choose one of the five Windows Store age rating categories, as seen below.

age ratings2

The five age ratings are the same as in Windows Dev Center previously.

The age rating you selected is displayed in the app product description page (PDP) in the Store:

age ratings3

What are market-specific age ratings?

In addition to the Windows Store age rating, you can include market-specific age ratings. These ratings are defined by rating bodies in various markets, which provide a rating certificate (in PDF or similar format) to serve as a record of your rating.

It is always a good practice to obtain and include the market-specific age rating for your app, even if it is optional, as this helps users choose the most appropriate content.

Here is an example of the United States age rating, ESRB, as shown in the Store:

age ratings4

How to add a market-specific age rating

After selecting the Windows Store age rating in the app submission, select the additional market-specific age ratings. You will need both a rating value and a rating certificate in order to include an age rating from a third-party ratings organization.

The new process is simpler and more complete than before:

  1. The app submission flow no longer requires GDF files, as the certificates are added directly in a drag & drop field.
  2. The age rating is selected from a drop down menu.
  3. In addition to the age rating, indicate additional details about your app through checkboxes directly during app submission (e.g. violence, strong language, fear, etc.).

The market-specific age ratings are optional in most markets, though there are four markets where the age rating is required to publish an app: Brazil, Korea, Russia and Taiwan.

age ratings5

Below I’ve listed all the markets, and the age rating organization appropriate for each market. Select the link to find out more about each one. The ESRB and PEGI ratings provide the rating at no cost in the portals indicated below.

Market Age rating required? Rating organization (getting a certificate)
Japan Optional CERO
Australia Optional COB
Taiwan Yes CSRR
Brazil Yes DJCTQ
United States, Canada Optional ESRB ( Obtain an ESRB rating — no cost )
South Africa Optional FPB
South Korea Yes GRAC
New Zealand Optional OFLC-NZ
Russia Yes PCBP
Europe (minus Russia) Optional PEGI   ( Obtain a PEGI rating – no cost )
Germany Optional USK

Remember that mature games are not accepted in the Windows Store, unless they include valid “Mature” age rating certificates for all markets where they are published, and comply with all other certification requirements.

I’ll describe below the processes for each market where a rating is required.

Game ratings in Brazil

Brazil requires content to be rated using the DJCTQ rating system. The DJCTQ rating is administered by the Brazilian Advisory Rating Coordination (Coordenação de Classificação Indicativa). The rating value can be obtained based on the DJCTQ document, or using equivalents based on a PEGI or ESRB certificate.

To submit a game in Brazil, in Windows Dev Center select the “App properties” section, next to DJCTQ choose the desired age rating from the drop-down and upload the certificate (either scanning the DJCTQ official government publication or adding the ESRB or PEGI certificates).

age ratings6

Game ratings in Russia

Russia requires a PCBP rating, which is self-assigned by each developer. The value can be based on the PCBP guidelines, or can be based on an equivalent PEGI rating. If you choose to base it on PEGI, first obtain the rating (use the no cost online form), then self-rate your game using the guidelines published by PCBP.

Once you have the PEGI certificate, select the age rating category, select the reason for choosing that rating (e.g. Agitation and fear, Antisocial behavior, etc.) and drag-and-drop your certificate into the designated area shown below.

age ratings7

Game ratings in South Korea

Korea requires all games to be rated using the GRAC system (formerly GRB). To obtain it, follow the process described in the GRB site. If you are not from Korea, you’ll need a local representative in Korea to request the rating for you.

Once you have the GRB certificate, in Dev Center select the desired age rating from the pulldown menu, select the reason for choosing that rating (e.g. bad language, fear, etc.) and drag-and-drop your certificate into the designated area seen below.

age ratings8

Game ratings in Taiwan

Taiwan requires content to be rated using the CSRR rating system. The CSRR system is self-rated, so you assign a rating based on the CSRR guidelines (Chinese/English). You should also register as a developer with CSRR (typically takes a few days) and then register your game with CSRR through their website.

Once you have the CSRR certificate, select the desired age rating, the reason for choosing that rating (e.g. bad language, crime, etc.) and drag-and-drop your certificate into the designated area shown below. 

age ratings9

One last step

After you have your ratings and certificates, and have added them to the app submission, I recommend double-checking that the associated market is selected so that the app is actually published in that market.

Publishing your apps in all the markets that require age ratings can increase your app or game downloads, so if you have not published your apps in all markets, take the time to do so now. You can read more about age ratings in the Dev Center documentation.

Please let me know if there are questions, as this is a constantly evolving topic, as countries and governments adjust to the rapid growth and increased use of apps.