The US Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will be required to implement new policies requiring the disclosure of all loot box odds for games on their platforms.
“I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform,” Michael Warnecke, ESA’s chief counsel for tech policy, said earlier today at a workshop on loot boxes held by the US Federal Trade Commission.
“Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomised virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.”
When reached for comment, the ESA directed Kotaku to a blog post on the organisation’s website, in which the organisation says the console makers are planning to implement this new policy sometime in 2020. It also states that many of the industry’s major publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros., have agreed to implement a similar disclosure policy “no later than the end of 2020.”
When asked about the coming changes, a Sony spokesperson gave Kotaku the following statement:
“Sony Interactive Entertainment aims to ensure PlayStation users have access to information and tools, such as parental wallet controls, that will help them make informed decisions about in-game purchasing. We support industry efforts to disclose the probability of obtaining randomised virtual items, known as loot boxes, and are committed to providing consumers with this information for all games we produce and publish.”
Microsoft and Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Star Wars: Battlefront II’s loot boxes and pay-to-win mechanics at launched made marked a turning point in the conversation around in-game purchases. (GIF: EA/Star Wars: Battlefront II)
The announcement came after Warnecke listed the other ways the video game industry has already attempted to self-regulate in the past with regard to loot boxes. It’s a topic that has come under increasing government scrutiny after it made headlines in late 2017 following the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II. While games currently include labels indicating whether they contain microtransaction purchases, and video game consoles also have parental controls that can be implemented to limit how much money children spend in-game, the industry is clearly feeling pressure to go further.
Warnecke explained that these new policies are meant to provide “a comprehensive approach to ensuring consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to paid loot boxes.”
Another potential change could come from legislation from the US Congress, like that which was previously proposed by Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. In May, Hawley introduced a bill in the Senate that would try to ban minors from obtaining games containing microtransactions and loot boxes.
While requiring games sold on their platforms disclose loot box odds would be new for the major console gaming platforms, it’s a policy already being implemented on mobile. Apple announced that requirement for games on iOS in 2017, while Google made similar changes only this past May.