7th Level, publisher of Tuneland, Take Your Best Shot and Monty Python's Complete Waste of Time, slammed some of its better-known competitors for using "blood and gore to sell video games to kids". "Technology has enabled the latest generation of leisure titles to feature realistic images of violent scenes and renew concerns over the amount of socially unacceptable material targeted at youngsters," it said in a statement.
The surprise attack reopens wounds the industry thought were healing after a bitter public battle over video nasties two years ago. "These attacks could generate the headlines we've had in the past," warned Steve Cheese, a spokesman for the European Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa), which represents most of Britain's video game makers.
In response to the outcry following the murder of James Bulger by two young boys in 1993, which was linked to a violent video, Elspa agreed to an age-rating system similar to the classifications used for films.
But 7th Level argues that the ratings are not working. "I've never seen anyone in a game store saying, 'You're too young to buy this'," said Lars Ronning,7th Level's European managing director.
The company cited as examples Mortal Kombat 3 by Acclaim Entertainment and Killer Instinct, which was written by British software house Rare but distributed by Nintendo.
Several industry insiders suggested 7th Level's concern may have been inspired by a desire to promote its latest title, Battle Beast, which contains no blood, guts or gore.
"Other people may offer sensational comments in order to draw attention to their own products," said Alan Dickinson, the managing director of Nintendo UK and also chairman of Elspa.