Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony announced an initiative that will require publishers to disclose drop rates for all games that include paid loot boxes.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, these measures were first announced earlier today by the Entertainment Software Association‘s chief counsel of tech policy Michael Warnecke during a Federal Trade Commission workshop intended to “examine consumer protection issues related to video game loot boxes”. The ESA has already established an “in-game purchases” label on retail titles and platform-level spending controls on consoles and the EA Origin PC storefront, but these have been deemed insufficient.
Since then, the ESA (which represents the video games industry in the US) has released a full statement on the matter, confirming that Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony “will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomised virtual items.” Additionally, the new measures, which are expected to be implemented next year, will apply to all games that add loot boxes in a post-launch update.
According to the ESA, a number of publishers – including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Warner Bros, and Wizards of the Coast – have all agreed to disclose the “relative rarity or probability of obtaining in-game virtual items from purchased loot boxes” in their own titles, and “in a manner that is understandable and easily accessed”. This will happen “no later than the end of 2020”.
This is a solid step towards solving the issue of exploitative practices in gaming, but it does little for computer games and nothing for mobile, and it isn’t specifically stopping companies from adding psychologically manipulative and abusive microtransactions to their games. This will continue to be an issue, and we will surely hear more stories on and proposals for it in the future.