ESRB Will Label Physical Games With Microtransactions, Including Loot Boxes

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor
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We have our first instance of blinking in the loot-box staredown between the video game industry and lawmakers. GamesIndustry.biz is reporting that the Entertainment Software Rating Board will add labels to games that include additional, post-purchase transactions of any kind, whether they be skins, subscriptions, season passes, music, downloadable content -- or loot boxes.

The label will be found outside the usual ratings box for a game, which typically includes such descriptors as "Violence" or "Sexual Themes." In that way, it will be similar to the "Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB" label that applies to online games.

As ESRB President Patricia Vance put it, the label will be visible but non-specific as to the exact nature of the additional purchases offered by a game, so as not to overwhelm potential buyers -- parents, especially -- with information regarding all the various ways games tend to make money after their initial purchase. Vance stated that parents were less concerned with the exact nature of the monetization method than they were with the fact that their children were spending additional money, by any means. Vance went on to say that disclosing loot box odds was not part of their concerns at the moment and re-iterated that loot boxes themselves had particular "psychological impact on children."

While I agree with Vance's claim that parents shouldn't be overwhelmed with information, I'm really curious as to what game wouldn't carry the proposed "additional purchases" label, at least in the PC realm. Even full-price games that are generally well-regarded, like The Witcher 3 or Civilization VI, have DLC, and things just get more complex from there.

Also, while it's a nice measure by the ESRB, the proposal specifically only affects physical games. That wouldn't affect any game downloaded online, which includes many of the same games found in stores as well as virtually every free-to-play game. Hawaii Representative Chris Lee is still going to want his bright red label on the website of a downloadable game. It would seem to me that the ESRB's proposed measure is the absolute minimum that can be done, in the most high-profile location -- store shelves -- while pretending that online gaming via huge platforms like Steam, the App Store, and the Google Play Store, don't exist or don't matter.

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In this article: Loot Boxes.

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (3)

NameGoesHere 4 years ago
No one ever bother looking at ESRB labels... this is so stupid.

I know loads of little kids between age 10~15 that buys Mature and Adult label games, parents don't give a damn about it.

time is money 4 years ago
What a cop-out. They're still doing everything in their power to protect the cash cow RNG boxes.

Q 4 years ago
Very sly of them, pretending that they're taking action against loot boxes when the only thing this is going to do is add a label everyone will just ignore to probably 90% of the games now. Microtransactions are not in any way equivalent to gambling. Purchasing something with money and knowing exactly what you're getting (an expansion, dlc, character, whatever) vs spending potentially hundreds of dollars to roll the dice and hope you get something you want.


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