Last year, the conversation around loot boxes reached fever-pitch, with several high-profile controversies making headlines around the world. Many countries were forced to debate whether or not the items could be a form of gambling, with the Danish government concluding that they are, if said items can be traded. The gaming regulatory body ESRB has addressed the issues around loot boxes in a tweet which gives updates on what they are considering when it comes to in-game purchases.
The above tweet reveals that the ESRB is adding a new "In-Game Purchases" label to physical games. The new label will warn buyers of any potential micro-transactions included in the title, extending to "bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes and mystery rewards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, upgrades and more."
As well as being applied to physical, boxed copies of games, the new label will also accompany any digital purchase which pertains to any of the in-game purchases listed above. Much of the worry around such micro-transactions is related to how accessible they are to children. To address these concerns, the ESRB is setting up a website dedicated to raising awareness in order to help parents manage the time and money their kids spend on games. The site can be accessed at ParentalTools.org, and provides detailed guides on setting up parental controls on consoles, from mobile platforms like Google Play to home consoles like Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
This is, as the ESRB describes "the first step of many" in the way regulatory bodies and governments handle loot boxes and micro-transactions in gaming, one which they say they will "make adjustments to as the need arises".
With various governments getting involved in debates over game regulation, worries over censorship have arisen from some industry professionals. There is a talk scheduled to take place at GDC this year, discussing legislation on loot boxes among several other topics.
Do you think that these new warnings will have any effect on the sales of loot boxes? Do you buy into micro-transactions? Let us know in the comments.