Google rolled out a new Play Store policy requiring game makers to show players what the chances are of getting any items that might be contained in a paid random-chance scenario.
Spotted by the website Android Police, the new requirement, listed in the monetisation section of Google’s Development Policy Center, states: “Apps offering mechanisms to receive randomised virtual items from a purchase (i.e. ‘loot boxes’) must clearly disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase.” Apple created a similar rule for its App Store at the end of 2017.
The new rule comes a week after US Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri introduced the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act in Congress, a piece of legislation that seeks to remove “pay-to-win microtransactions” and the sale of loot boxes in games aimed at minors. The bill has received some bipartisan support, as well as criticism from the Entertainment Software Association, the gaming industry’s lobbying group, which called it “flawed and riddled with inaccuracies.”
The backlash against loot boxes has already led to major changes in some other countries, most notably Belgium, where loot boxes in games like FIFA and Overwatch were declared illegal, and subsequently removed for players in that country. Earlier this month, Nintendo announced that it would remove Fire Emblem: Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, which both feature loot boxes, from app stores in Belgium starting August 27.
Nintendo’s latest mobile game, Mario Kart Tour, is currently undergoing a closed beta on Android in the US. While it does have loot box mechanics and a lot of microtransactions, it also already contains a breakdown of the odds for what players can get every time they spend gems on another shot at its lottery system. Players have a 0.3367 per cent chance of getting Dry Bowser, for instance. The more you know.