This could be a big one. According to translators on NeoGAF, there’s a new law in effect in China that requires online game companies with randomized lockboxes to make known the odds of getting the items in those lockboxes. According to the translation:
2.6 …Online game publishers shall promptly publicly announce information about the name, property, content, quantity, and draw/forge probability of all virtual items and services that can be drawn/forge on the official website or a dedicated draw probability webpage of the game. The information on draw probability shall be true and effective.
2.7 Online game publishers shall publicly announce the random draw results by customers on notable places of official website or in game, and keep record for government inquiry. The record must be kept for more than 90 days. When publishing the random draw results, some measures should be taken place to protect user privacy.
Now, it’s possible that this is, in part, a mistranslation or misinterpretation — you can take a crack at the original Chinese yourself — but if it is what it seems to be, this could be huge. It’s legislation I’ve wondered about before, suggesting that paid lockboxes should be subject to the same kind of odds disclosure you get with trading-card packs or in a casino. I suppose I just expected it to be more likely to come up first in the U.S., Europe, or Korea.
“But it’s just crappy free-to-play Chinese games that will do this, that doesn’t affect me!” Depending on the exact wording of the law, not quite. If this affects any game that operates in China — which includes many games by Western developers — then they’ll need to disclose their odds. And if they use the same loot tables in the West, we’ll know what they are. Even if they don’t, players will think they’re the same, and that could lead game companies to be a little more open about their odds.
Now, how will this affect other forms of in-game loot? Again, the translation isn’t totally clear, and I don’t think we want or need odds of every in-game loot bag to be disclosed. But what about things like Hearthstone packs, which you can buy for real money or in-game gold, or sometimes earn for free? And many games don’t have you buy things directly; instead, you pay cash to get a currency, like “diamonds” or “GameBucks” and you spend that on lockboxes. Does that count? What if you can occasionally earn those currencies through gameplay? Does that circumvent the law? You’d better believe game companies will exploit every possible loophole to maintain their advantage.
Of course, all of this could blow up like that spending limit law in South Korea from a couple of years ago and be quickly repealed if it crashes the games industry. But I’m certainly interested to see how it all plays out.