New ESRB label will tell you if a game has loot boxes or other similar mechanics

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,905   +760
Staff member

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced on Monday that it will start to label whether a game contains purchasable random items. Any games with loot boxes, card or item packs, prize wheels, gacha games, and other types of randomized goodies that can be bought directly or indirectly with real-world currency will be labeled in this manner.

"This new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency (or with virtual coins or other forms of in-game currency that can be purchased with real world currency) for which the player doesn’t know prior to purchase the specific digital goods or premiums they will be receiving (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards)," said the ESRB.

The rating board initially addressed the controversy over loot boxes in 2018 when it began applying an "in-game purchases" label. However, this designation applied to just about every game, including those that offered subscriptions, season passes, or in-game advertising opt-outs. It was far too broad to be useful to the consumer in determining if a title had loot boxes or other randomized offers.

The reasoning given at the time was that the ESRB did not want to "overwhelm" parents who might not even know what a loot box is, let alone the various variations of the concept.

"Parents need simple information," said ESRB president Patricia Vance at the time. "We can't overwhelm them with a lot of detail. We need to be clear, concise, and make it easy for them. A large majority of parents don't know what a loot box is, and even those who claim they do don't really understand what a loot box is. So it's very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se, but to make sure we're capturing loot boxes but also other in-game transactions."

However, the labeling was neither clear nor concise and consumers let the ESRB know this, which is what caused the board to narrow its focus to randomized items.

A new labeling system is not a solution to the problem, which has been tagged as "illegal gambling" in several regions, but it is a somewhat better way for the consumer to make informed purchases. Other efforts from publishers and manufacturers are upping the ante by requiring more transparency.

In 2017 Apple began telling app makers to disclose loot box drop odds in their games. Last August, all three console manufacturers stated that they would require all publishers to reveal the odds of receiving items. Those policies are slated to go into effect sometime this year. Prominent game makers, including Bethesda, Ubisoft, EA, Activision Blizzard, and others, are already on board with the disclosure rules.

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ShagnWagn

Posts: 1,297   +1,084
What about games advertised and sold without loot box gambling, but add it later on? This is false advertising and why I don't want to play the game I bought called Overwatch. I want the game in a state as I originally purchased. There are numerous other examples. Just wait - they are going to start selling games as unlimited play and then a few months later require payments if you want to keep playing it.
 

Vulcanproject

Posts: 1,332   +2,316
Weak label. Every game with loot boxes should have a mandatory picture of a greedy fat cat smoking a cigar and counting his bills.

Hey, the EU puts large graphic pictures of smoking related illnesses on it's cigarette packs, this would be just as accurate and as embarrassing to the industry.
 

Reehahs

Posts: 1,159   +796
Weak label. Every game with loot boxes should have a mandatory picture of a greedy fat cat smoking a cigar and counting his bills.

Hey, the EU puts large graphic pictures of smoking related illnesses on it's cigarette packs, this would be just as accurate and as embarrassing to the industry.

Given how often the rating system gets ignored, I am all for graphic imagery instead of useless icons. Ever wonder how many parents are going to buy COD or GTA for their kids if the cover is plastered with imagery appropriate for the age these games are aimed at?

 

psycros

Posts: 3,384   +3,858
Given how often the rating system gets ignored, I am all for graphic imagery instead of useless icons. Ever wonder how many parents are going to buy COD or GTA for their kids if the cover is plastered with imagery appropriate for the age these games are aimed at?

A depressingly large number. Most parents of kids under 18 have the common sense of a jackrabbit and the parental instincts of a crocodile.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 8,001   +6,775
It's a good start but I think they still should enforce the gambling charges and eliminate all loot boxes .... period.