The ESRB has announced a new label for all game ratings that will apply to loot boxes and similar mechanics in all games they apply a rating to. The new classification will apply to all games that include “loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more.”
The new qualifier will be separate to “In-Game Purchases,” which itself was introduced in 2018. The new label 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).”
According to the report, “Less than a third of parents have both heard of a loot box.” That means it makes perfect sense to begin pushing more clarity with loot boxes and similar mechanics in video games. Going further, the ESRB now says that the choice to add additional classes for games was based in part on both consumer reaction to the gambling mechanics and their own research. “Recent research shows that less than a third of parents have both heard of a loot box and know what it is,” said the ESRB. “It is still essential that all consumers, especially parents, have a clear understanding of the rating information we provide.”
All of this makes the consistent backlash against loot boxes, pretty justified, as the term loot box has taken both a very sinister reputation, while at the same time is notoriously unregulated. And with major corporations like EA and Take Two defending them, while making billions of dollars, there’s a ton of rage against the system in this case. Although it does feel a bit hollow that the ESRB chose now to start pushing against loot boxes, given that they previously defended them vociferously. And given the scummy response these companies had to European legislators trying to ban these nasty systems, there is likely a back and forth between the greediest filth in the industry and the ESRB to be happening right now.
“The original In-Game Purchases notice will still be assigned to games that offer any other type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, DLC, expansions, etc.” explained the ESRB. “However, going forward it will not be assigned to games with ‘loot boxes’ or similar mechanics to ensure consumers clearly understand when the game offers purchases with randomized elements.”