The ESRB has announced an addition to its ratings that will highlight video games that have randomized items — a.k.a. “loot boxes” — for purchase. This is a modification of an earlier policy that indicated whether games had any kind of additional purchases available, randomized or not.
The new label is “In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)” and it will be applied to any game with purchases of randomized items, whether using real money or currency that can be purchased with real money. The definition of randomized items includes “loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more.”
According to the ESRB’s blog post, their research indicates that parents are concerned about their children spending money on in-game purchases in any way — not just via loot boxes — and that fewer than a third of them even know and understand what a “loot box” is. It’s “game consumers and enthusiasts (not necessarily parents)” who have asked for this kind of labeling, the ESRB said.
Still, it’s probably a good step to take, though it falls short of the pledge made by the ESA (which controls the ESRB) “to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items” in its members’ games. That’s supposed to be enacted by the end of 2020, though I could see the chaos caused by the global pandemic pushing that deadline back to some degree.