This week the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced that publishers Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will require games developed for their platforms that include paid loot boxes to disclose the ‘relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items’ from them.
The aim of this initiative is to provide consumers with more information about the likelihood of receiving particular items, which will help inform their purchasing choices. The requirements are set to be in place across the platforms by the end of 2020.
The announcement from the ESA references “paid loot boxes”, but it is not yet clear whether this means loot boxes that are available for direct purchase only, or if it will also include loot boxes that are obtained using virtual currency that can be bought with real world money.
This is not the first time that steps have been taken to require companies to disclose the odds of loot boxes – it is already a requirement in China and Apple introduced the obligation for apps published on its App Store to disclose loot box odds at the end of 2017.
However, loot boxes have faced renewed scrutiny this year, most recently in the form of the ongoing inquiry by the UK Government’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee into ‘immersive and addictive’ technologies, where concerns have been raised about the impact of in-game spending on consumers (especially children).
Although some will argue that simply disclosing drop rates is not enough to protect players, this latest development does demonstrate that the industry is willing to self-regulate amidst growing scrutiny from governments and regulatory bodies.
As more details of the initiative evolve, it will be interesting to see how wide the net is cast when considering what constitutes a paid loot box and if other consoles and platforms follow suit.