The Pan European Game Information (PEGI), the European game rating commission, has announced a new descriptor for labels – that of in-game purchases. Previously, this descriptor was used for digital games, but has now expanded to physical copies.
This announcement comes very shortly after Blizzard pulled loot boxes from its games Heroes Of The Storm and Overwatch in Belgium amid pressure from regulators. Nor is Belgium the only country looking into lootboxes or other forms of monetization. Other countries, including parts of the United States, have begun taking looks at the gaming industry's models, putting them under increased scrutiny and putting self-regulating options like PEGI and ESRB ratings under increased pressure to come up with a satisfactory solution.
PEGI cited a survey conducted by Ipsos indicating that 40% of parents have noted that their child has spent money inside of a game, and that “over 8 in 10” have set up an arrangement to manage this spending. Ipsos also found that 60% require permission, 31% have a limit for a time period, 28% use parental controls, 25% monitor credit/debit bills, and 20% use prepaid cards. They also found that “Only 2% of parents do not monitor their children’s spending.”
“Making parents aware of the existence of optional in-game purchases upfront is an important first step. PEGI will now make this information available at the point of purchase, so that a parent can decide whether and how they want to monitor and/or limit a child’s spending...While we know that parents use different methods to control spending, parental control tools are a very helpful next step in making sure that the overall online experience of the child is safe, including the possibility to control spending. Entering into a dialogue with the child about the games they enjoy is certainly a must for all parents. It will provide them with the necessary context to create a gaming environment both the children and the parents are comfortable with.” -- PEGI Managing Director Simon LittleHe went on to note that “Considering that physical releases are an important part of the market, this was an important gap to fill. For a parent who may not be fully familiar with the video games landscape, seeing this simple descriptor on the packaging of a game they consider buying should trigger the reflex of keeping an eye on the gameplay, once the game has been purchased and given to the child. It’s basic information, but that’s what parents sometimes feel they are lacking.”
The descriptor does not distinguish between types of purchases. DLC and expansions will be labeled the same as purely cosmetic microtransactions, in-game item purchasing, and loot boxes. PEGI also does not note what, if anything, will be done for games that later include purchases such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which did not launch with any purchases, but does have DLC now.
PEGI has said that any game offering digital goods with real currency will carry this label, and it will begin to show “towards the end of this year”.