Are Mature-Rated Games Usually The Most Popular?
This theory may be far off base, but forgive me if I let my mostly useless Psychology degree play a small role in this article.
Some will say that Mature-rated games fare better than "T" or "E"-rated titles, but for the most part, it only depends on the time of year and the popular franchises that recently enjoyed a fresh installment on the market. If you look at the past year, you can look at the likes of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Gears of War 2, Killzone 2, Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, etc., and those are all "M"-rated. But at the same time, LittleBigPlanet swept away the competition at this year's AIAS Awards and has managed to sell quite well over time. So is there any basis to the philosophy - usually put forth by anti-gaming activists - that the Mature games sell better? We can always say that controversial or "edgy" entertainment of any kind will boost revenue - ranging from Manhunt to "Hostel" to Marilyn Manson - but we're really only talking about the role of standard "M"-rated games, which are equivalent to "R"-rated films. So what's the deal?
Well, perhaps there is something to this, and it's primarily due to the age demographic. The gaming industry targets the 12-35 crowd and if you want to get more specific, that can get boiled down to the 16-25 group. Now, let's face it: there are many individuals in that demographic that will flock to the "M"-rated game, if only because younger individuals tend to be found indulging in more adult-oriented content (what was the average age of the "Saw" viewer in the theaters? Any senior citizens in there?), and furthermore, for the young young gamers, it's taboo...which is always appealing. For the record, I most definitely support the ESRB and I don't condone the sale of "M"-rated games to minors. But the bottom line is that based on the target audience, it seems almost logical to assume that the games with adult content will fare better. Oh, and there's one other thing: the "machismo"/lack of self-esteem/struggling self-image issue.
In other words, many 18-year-old guys might scoff at LittleBigPlanet because it's just too "cutesy." And hey, guys aren't supposed to play "cute;" they're supposed to play the hard-assed stuff, regardless of how good the game may be. Too many men can't seem to push past this until they get older, and oh yeah, the majority of avid gamers in the world are still male. See what I'm getting at? The more we examine the situation from a sociological and psychological viewpoint, the more this theory appears plausible. What do you think?
4/22/2009 Ben Dutka