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American and European Video Games Rating Boards Will Now Label Video Games That Include Loot Boxes

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We did it guys! Both the American Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) organisations have simultaneously agreed to highlight video games that include “paid random items” on their ratings label so that gamers can make more informed decisions before purchasing a game.

This is the second time both ratings boards have adapted their systems due to criticism of loot boxes and other randomized monetized gambling mechanics in video games. Their first attempt to address concerns came two years ago, when both introduced designations that clearly state whether a software title features in-game purchases.

The ESRB were keen to point out that this decision was made in response to concerns coming from players and not just parents.

“According to research, parents are far more concerned about their child’s ability to spend real money in games than the fact that those in-game purchases may be randomized. This data helped to inform the introduction of the In-Game Purchases Interactive Element. That being said, since adding the In-Game Purchases notice to ratings assigned to physical games many game consumers and enthusiasts (not necessarily parents) have reached out to us asking the ESRB to include additional information to identify games that include randomized purchases. The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests. By including more specificity about the randomized nature of the in-game purchases, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing or downloading a game, instead of finding out after the fact.

A direct quote from the ESRB’s official statement

Some gamers on social media have expressed concern over the ambiguity of the new designations that state whether a game includes “paid random items”, suggesting that the more common vernacular “loot boxes” should be used instead. However, the ESRB also responded to these concerns in their official statement.

Why Not Say “Loot Boxes”?
“Loot box” is a term that doesn’t encompass all types of randomized in-game purchase mechanics. We want to ensure that the new label covers all transactions with randomized elements. In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) accounts for loot boxes and all similar mechanics that offer random items in exchange for real-world currency or in-game currency that can be purchased with real money.

Moreover, we want to avoid confusing consumers who may not be familiar with what a loot box is. Recent research shows that less than a third of parents have both heard of a loot box and know what it is. “Loot box” is a widely understood phrase in and around the video game industry and among dedicated gamers, but most people less familiar with games do not understand it. While this new label is primarily in response to feedback from game enthusiasts, it is still essential that all consumers, especially parents, have a clear understanding of the rating information we provide.

A direct quote from the ESRB’s official statement

Critics have remained cynical about the move from both organisations, suggesting this is “too little too late”, as these new ratings have come at a time when many publishers and developers have already chosen to remove exploitative monetised gambling mechanics from their most popular titles due to the continuous backlash they have received from their customers.

Regardless of questions about the timing of these announcements, any adaption which gives gamers the power to make more informed decisions before purchasing a game must be hailed as a positive step in the right direction.

About the Author

Aidan was once a world-class Duck Hunt player before he began a lustrous career as a web developer. To this day his name can be heard spoken in hushed tones in the murky underbelly of the underground competitive Duck Hunt community.

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