By Anni Simpson on February 28, 2018 at 6:04am
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is relabelling video games, but these labels have nothing to do sex and violence in games. Instead, the ESRB is targeting loot boxes, in-game currency, and in-game purchases. These new labels will be in addition to the current labels for maturity.
They will "be applied to games with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency." ESRB
The ratings will impact the following "features" that are increasingly available in the games users encounter:Surprise items including item packs, loot boxes, and mystery rewards
Bonus levels, skins, and music
Virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency
Subscriptions and season passes
Upgrades (e.g., that disable ads)
Players can thank Electronic Arts for the "Star Wars Battlefront 2" debacle in which users had to spend over 40 hours to unlock pivotal characters from the "Star Wars" universe. Because EA tied player advancement to the random chance crate items, users couldn't avoid engaging with the mechanic. However, EA is far from the only company to do so, and the mechanic has been a standard feature of free mobile games for years including even innoculous "games" like "Neko Atsume" (paid currency) and "Magikarp Jump."
Some of the changes are coming, finally, because of parental concern that their children are using real family money to advance themselves in a game without truly understanding the consequences of it. The FTC has settled with Apple and Google both over the issue of in-app purchases made without the account holders' knowledge.
Although not a perfect response, it is a good first step in that it warns parents and adult players alike if their initial purchase of a game will not be enough to allow them to truly enjoy or play the game ... or if in-game currency is limited to cosmetic changes only (e.g., skins in "League of Legends" and "Heroes of the Storm").
We feel this is an effective response ... We are going to continue to look at this issue and determine if there are additional measures or guidelines to put in place. This obviously an issue of concern to the gamer community. Patricia Vance, President of the ESRB
This news rides the change for loot box percentages in China, who now requires developers to reveal upfront what the chance a user will receive a rare, coveted item.