As the public and legislative pressure surrounding microtransactions and loot boxes grows, so too does the impetus to do something about the problem that they present. More and more gamers are starting to wake up to the fact that loot boxes are just gambling. And even though some entities and companies still have their head in the sand, the trend is definitely turning away from acceptance. People want something to be done about this problem that’s costing people their life savings and their sanity, and it finally looks like those efforts are working.
The Entertainment Software Association, the main public face for lobbying and public relations of the games industry, has made a surprising announcement on that front. Entertainment Software Association chief counsel of tech policy Michael Warnecke announced during the Federal Trade Commission’s Inside the Game workshop, that the group was working with major console manufacturers to self-police the industry.
I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform. Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features. And it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.
As well, many of the leading video game publishers of the Entertainment Software Association have decided that they are going to implement a similar approach at the publisher level to provide consumers this information and give them enhanced information to make purchase decisions.
Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast all gave the OK to the measure, promising to disclose odds in loot boxes by the end of 2020.
If such a measure where to come to pass; and that would be quite the uphill battle due to resistance from companies that would refuse such an agreement, then it could signal a major shift in attitudes within the AAA segments of the games industry. As major console makers and platform holders work harder to clean up the image of gaming, the toxicity of loot boxes and gambling mechanics cannot be ignored.
There’s a lot of work left to do though, as such measures would require publishers to play ball as well. And many ESA-member companies have not made such commitments including, 505 Games, Capcom, CI Games, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive Studios, Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive and many more. It’s also worth mentioning that the ESA has lost a fair bit of public confidence recently after a major data leak led to the doxxing (releasing of personally identifiable information online) of thousands of game journalists and industry folks.
Now only if they could also squash crunch culture and encourage unionization within companies, that would be pretty swell. I won’t hold my breath for that one though.