“Never tell me the odds,” Han Solo once said. He was only trying to navigate an asteroid field, though, not the arguably more confusing and hazardous world of gaming loot boxes.
But he, and everyone else, will soon know the odds for getting that sweet rare drop from loot boxes in console games — which will hopefully be better than the 3,720-to-1 figure that C-3PO provided.
Following today’s workshop with the Federal Trade Commission, the Entertainment Software Association made a statement saying that the three major console manufacturers — Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft — will require game developers “to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items.” Major publishers that are a part of the ESA — including 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 — will also adhere to such disclosure requirements, not only for console games but for “PC games and other games delivered outside of the platforms.”
The time frame for implementation of these measures is “no later than the end of 2020.”
All this comes in the wake of nearly two years of intense scrutiny over loot boxes that really kicked off with the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II and has led to proposed regulation in some U.S. states and firm legal action in other countries, as well as other rumblings of regulation across the world. It’s a compromise, no doubt, that the video game industry is being forced to make, so as to avoid stricter regulations and even more losses in the United States and abroad. Questions still remain about how these odds will be disclosed — they should be in-game and very obvious as you’re making a purchase, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some obfuscation involved — but game developers have over a year to figure out just how to get it done.
While the list provided by the ESA includes some of the biggest names in the industry, it’s worth noting who wasn’t mentioned. I’m not sure if the list at the bottom of this page is exhaustive, but it includes Tencent, NCSoft, Square Enix, Epic Games, and Riot Games, to name a few. Those are likely some of the companies the ESA is referring to when it says “Many other ESA members are considering a disclosure.”
And then there’s Valve, which, while not listed as an ESA member, exerts a huge influence on the gaming community via Steam — effectively making it a fourth “console manufacturer,” alongside Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft. If Valve committed to the same changes that those companies have, and required it of games on Steam, it would be huge, affecting potentially tens of thousands of games. At the very least, that pressure will be there.