Prior to publication, video games on all platforms, whether the platform is the Nintendo Wii, Sony PS3 or Microsoft Xbox 360, must pass through a certification process determined by the company that owns the video game platform. These certification processes set minimum standards of quality that games intended for their platforms must meet. Certification requirements for potential Xbox 360 games are described in the Xbox 360 Publisher License Agreement.
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The concept submission form is the first hurdle a publisher's game must get through. Essentially, the contents of this form describe the game that the publisher intends to create and publish. Once the concept form is accepted by Microsoft, adherence to the concept becomes a requirement for certification. Online content, however, may be proposed even after a concept has been approved.
After approval of the concept, the next step is pre-certification, during which the publisher delivers a version of the title which includes all working features. Microsoft will then test technical aspects of the title and provide feedback to the publisher.
A title's publisher is expected to test its own product thoroughly throughout this process. Moreover, the publisher is expected to keep written records of the testing and to divulge those records to Microsoft for inspection upon request.
Prior to certification, a title must receive a content rating, which suggests an audience for which a title is appropriate. In the United States, for instance, a rating of "T" indicates that a title is appropriate for teenagers. In order to be published on the Xbox 360, a video game may not have a rating higher than "M" for mature, "17+," or the equivalent of either rating. Content ratings must be determined by the appropriate authorities of those sales territories in which the title will be released, in the United States, the authority would be the ESRB.
The process advances to the certification phase once the publisher delivers the proposed final version of their title to Microsoft. At this point, program errors should have been identified and corrected while changes stipulated by Microsoft should have been implemented. Prior to release from certification, a title must pass additional testing and conform to the approved concept. Also, the packaging materials that will be included with the game must also pass Microsoft's approval.
If a title fails to pass certification, and the publisher has made efforts in good faith to address any issues raised by Microsoft, the title may be resubmitted, although this may result in additional fees.
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