Back in August 2018, that far-off world of pubs and joyful skipping, the Pan-European Game Information board (PEGI) announced it was to begin flagging in-game purchases as part of its video game rating system. Now it's going to go one further, and distinguish between games with paid DLC and games with 'paid random items.' Which is to say: loot boxes.
This means that games containing paid random items will now carry a notice both physically and on digital stores, allowing customers who want to avoid this facet of the industry entirely to do so. PEGI also provided its own definition of what constitutes a paid random item:
Paid random items are a particular form of optional in-game purchases: they comprise all in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums where players don’t know exactly what they are getting prior to the purchase (e.g. loot boxes, card packs, prize wheels). Depending on the game, these items may be purely cosmetic or they may have functional value: they can include additional characters, outfits and other appearance upgrades, but also tools or weapons, etc. They may unlock extra levels, add new skills or provide performance upgrades. For the purpose of this descriptor, “paid” random items are those that can be purchased directly with real money and/or those that can be exchanged for an in-game virtual currency that itself can be purchased directly with real money.
Which all seems pretty straightforward. The wind has changed around in-game purchases over recent years, with players less willing to accept systems like loot boxes than they once were, and legislators worldwide gradually waking up to the fact that, yes, video games are a huge industry that in some respects might require regulation (the UK's Digital Culture Media and Sport committee, DCMS, published a report last year that labelled loot boxes as "games of chance.") The industry itself isn't blind to this, and the more sensible publishers are already moving well away from the more egregious microtransaction techniques.
PEGI in an addendum to this announcement said that "fewer than 20% of all rating licenses issued by PEGI had in-game purchases" last year. That's roughly a fifth of all the games it rated, though here there is no distinction being made between 'normal' DLC and paid random items.
The days of throwing £2 to the breeze on a case key are coming to an end. I won't be sad to see them go. Counter-Strike Global Offensive has rinsed me over the years and, you know what, none of those crates ever did drop a knife.