The age appropriateness ratings for each game

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The age-appropriateness ratings for each game assigned by the ESRB board are E, E10, T, M, 12 where E classifies games suitable for everybody, E10 for everyone aged 10 and up, T for teens, and M games for a mature audience. 13 The ESRB is an industry-supported, non-governmental body with the goal of providing a simple system to inform parents about the content of the games their children may want to play. In this sense, it plays a similar role to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings for movies. We identified the ESRB ratings for each game in the sample. Overall, categories with the most games are those suitable for everybody (33 %) or for teen audiences (34 %). Our measure of game quality derives from the expert review data from the GameSpot Web site. Launched in May 1996, GameSpot provides the latest news, reviews, previews, and links to portals for all current platforms. It also includes a list of the most popular games and features a search engine for users to track down games of interest. Almost every game in our sample was reviewed by the GameSpot staff who assigns ratings on a scale from 1 to 10. These so-called GameSpot scores (GSS) are intended to provide an at-a-glance sense of the overall quality of the game. The overall rating we collected is based on evaluations of graphics, sound, gameplay, replay value, and reviewer’s tilt. We use GameSpot’s editorial reviews generated before commercial release since consumer reviews are subject to reverse causality when popular games generate more positive reviews (Zhu and Zhang 2010 ). However, it is possible that this relationship differs for games based on a popular tie-in from a sequel or a movie, e.g., the Final Fantasy series or the Harry 11 Overall, there is no standardized principle for defining video game genres, making the selection somewhat arbitrary. However, GameSpot has developed a broad competence in assessing and valuing video games, making its genre definition a suitable choice for our data. 12 Technically, there is also a rating of A for adult content only. However, this rating is rarely applied and covers mostly games with pornographic content. Our data do not contain games with this rating. 13 A detailed description of the mechanism determining the assigning of the ratings can be found in Federal Trade Commission (2007) or at the ESRB Web site. 12 J Cult Econ (2018) 42:1–22 123
Potter franchise. If developers anticipate that these games will sell well due to their popular tie-in, they may anticipate lower returns to investment in game quality. The same line of thought might also hold for common branding franchises where a game is following a predecessor by, e.g., being the current setting of an existing universe or the current season of a professional sport franchise. The two franchise dummy variables capture the effects of such branding.

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