An IGDA loot box blog post from Executive Director Jennifer MacClean has a wake-up call for the gaming industry: do a better job with microtransactions before the government steps in.
It's been a bad year for developers who depend on loot boxes as a revenue stream. Several countries have already had issues with this particular system of microtransactions. Changing regulations in Belgium caused Blizzard to pull loot boxes from some of their games in that country. Finland, Australia, and now even the FTC along with who knows how many other governments have either proposed investigations into loot boxes or have already begun. The IGDA loot box proposal is well aware of this and has a warning message for game devs.
IGDA (the International Game Developers Association) is a nonprofit organization that's meant to serve game developers as an advocacy organization. The IGDA loot box blog post goes over the loot box issue in detail and has several points of advice for game developers around the world that they suggest starting with.
To start, IGDA wants the industry to stop marketing loot boxes to children. While most larger companies don't do this directly, there are probably at least a few shadier developers who make games targeted to kids and don't have an issue with loading up a game with microtransactions. Whether a dev is big or small, selling loot boxes to kids isn't a good look.
The second recommendation made in the IGDA loot box proposal is that developers clearly disclose the odds for players. This is already a law in China and developers have been coming into compliance over the last year and change.
Finally, IGDA wants developers to work together and launch a campaign advising parents of the parental controls built into games and hardware systems that would prevent kids from being able to make purchases without supervision. Pretty much every major console and digital distribution platform has some kind of option that can block adult content, restrict purchases, and generally keep kids from getting themselves into trouble.
If developers don't take action, IGDA fears that the recent increase in government investigations is going to turn into actual legislation. These laws could end up being overly-restrictive and hurt the industry more than any kind of voluntary action on their part. Americans have already avoided governmental interference in games when the ESRB was created - let's hope that game devs have the sense to do the same for loot boxes.
What do you think of the IGDA loot box blog post? Do you think their recommendations are good and - more importantly - do you think big developers will actually take their warning to heart? Let us know in the comments below!