The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have agreed to implement new policies surrounding the disclosure of odds for randomised in-game items and loot boxes.
ESA stated the principle will “require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items.” The exact launch date of the disclosure requirement is still in discussion, however, “the console makers are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.”
It was noted that several ESA publisher members have already implemented rarity and probability disclosures for loot boxes while a number of others have reportedly agreed to follow a similar course of action by the end of 2020. The aforementioned list of publishers includes 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 while “other ESA members are considering a disclosure” as well. The disclosure agreement will appertain to in-game updates that add randomised microtransaction rewards and must be “presented in a manner that is understandable and easily accessed.”
ESA’s statement around the disclosure agreement was announced in course with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public loot box workshop which was held on August 7 at the Constitution Center in Washington D.C. Designed to examine consumer protection issues pertinent to loot boxes, the workshop brought together a collection of industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, and government officials to tackle the matter.
A spokesperson for Microsoft commented on its rarity disclosure plans saying, “We believe in transparency with customers and providing them information for making their purchase decisions,” Microsoft said in an email exchange with Kotaku. “This is why by 2020 all new apps or games offering “loot boxes” or other mechanisms on Microsoft platforms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose to customers, prior to purchase, the odds of receiving each item. In addition, we’re proud to offer robust family settings that offer further control over in-game purchasing.”
Nintendo weighed in on the matter, providing the following statement:
“At Nintendo, ensuring that our customers can make informed choices when they play our games is very important. As part of our ongoing efforts in this area, Nintendo will require disclosure of drop rates in Nintendo Switch games that offer randomized virtual items for purchase, such as loot boxes. This requirement will apply to all new games and includes updates to current games that add loot boxes through in-game purchases.
We also offer tools like our Nintendo Switch Parental Controls mobile app, which empowers parents to choose what works for their family, including managing in-game purchases and setting playtime limits.”
Following suit shortly after, both Epic Games and Psyonix pledged loot box transparency for Fortnite and Rocket League, respectively, among other games. The changes will see revisions to Fortnite’s Save the World mode, while Rocket League will look to refine its paid crates.
Loot boxes have been under the gun for quite some time, with increasing government monitoring after Star Wars: Battlefront 2 introduced a ‘pay to progress’ model into the game upon launch in 2017. Stirring a global controversy, a number of amendments and government legislations have been introduced in an effort to combat the randomized microtransactions. A more daunting, and stricter form of enactments could come from Congress if loot boxes aren’t addressed fully to administrative standards; we witnessed this first-hand when Missouri Senator Republican Sen. Josh Hawley proposed a bill to outlaw microtransactions and loot boxes entirely for players under the age of 18.
Esports Insider says: Whether or not loot boxes should be constituted as gambling will be a seemingly never ending debate. However, the latest push by ESA and wide support from its publishers is a big step in the right direction – especially to avoid further advisement from governing bodies.