ESRB Takes Action on Loot Boxes by Creating New Label

The ESRB buckles to mounting legislative pressure.

News by Matt Kim, .

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), feeling the scrutiny from state legislators, announced today that it will address in-game purchases by creating a new label that will begin appearing on physical video game releases.

The new in-game purchases label will be applied to video games that offer players a chance to spend real-world currency. That means not only are loot boxes a part of the labeling efforts, but skins, subscriptions, season passes, music, DLC, and even games with the option to disable ads. Basically, a lot of modern video games.

ESRB president Patricia Vance sat down in a roundtable call with journalists and announced that the label will be seen outside the normal ratings box, where video game descriptors like "violence" or "suggestive content" are seen alongside the game's ratings. Rather, it will be like the "Online Interactions Not Rated by the ESRB" designation and appear elsewhere on the packaging to keep it distinct.

"I'm sure you're all asking why we aren't doing something more specific to loot boxes," said Vance. "And I'll tell you we've done a lot of research over the past several weeks and months, particularly among parents. What we learned is that a large majority of parents don't know what a loot box is, and even those who claim they do don't really understand what a loot box is."

As a result, Vance said that it wasn't for the ESRB to "harp on loot boxes per se, but to make sure we're capturing loto boxes but also other in-game transactions." According to Vance, parents were largely concerned with whether or not their children were spending money tin-game than the actual mechanic of loot boxes. The ESRB will also not require publishers to disclose loot drop rates, but several publishers appear to be opting into this practice on their own.

To help parents further, the ESRB has set up an online website, which comes with several step-by-step instructions on how to set up parental controls on today's most popular gaming devices including the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and even Google Play.

You might remember Vance's name as last month US Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) wrote her a letter asking the ESRB to do more when it came to loot boxes in video games. Hassan also went ahead to ensure that future members of the FTC would be looking into loot boxes, to which they agreed to if nominated.

"We'll continue to work with the industry to ensure there are effective disclosures about in-game purchases in general, and more specifically loot boxes. So if there's more that we can do, we will," said Vance.

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Comments 9

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  • Avatar for moochan #1 moochan 8 months ago
    "Look we talked to our bosses and they like lootboxes so we decided to do pretty much nothing"
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  • Avatar for CK20XX #2 CK20XX 8 months ago
    Geeze, remember back in the days of Jack Thompson when we were all fighting to keep the government from legislating our favorite hobby? Today though, I don't really care what the government does. The game industry has earned whatever is coming and this smoke-and-mirrors non-action only serves to make the situation more insulting.
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #3 mattcom26 8 months ago
    All this does is create more confusion and stigmatize games that allow you to buy some add-on's but don't participate in questionable loot box practices.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #4 Roto13 8 months ago
    So not so much "takes action" as "does whatever they can to avoid actually taking action"
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  • Avatar for docexe #5 docexe 8 months ago
    Sigh... Loot boxes and Micro-transactions are not the devil and they are ultimately optional in most games, so outright banning them seems unreasonable to me.

    At the same time, it can't be denied they have been implemented in abusive ways already, and that a simple "catch all" label doesn't really address the issue.

    If parents don't understand loot boxes or don't differentiate them from other micro-transactions, then the ESRB should actually attempt to educate them. They are setting up a site to explain parents how to use parental controls? Good, now set up one explaining the different types of micro-transactions and their potential risks.

    Of course, that would need the ESA to admit there can be an addictive or psychologically exploitative component on loot boxes and other micro-transactions, something they seem hell-bent on refusing.
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  • Avatar for docexe #6 docexe 8 months ago
    Deleted February 2018 by docexe
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  • Avatar for LK4O4 #7 LK4O4 8 months ago
    I'll be surprised if this isn't "too little, too late" and the game industry still gets hit with some level of legislation around randomized purchases, but who knows?
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  • Avatar for benjaminlu86 #8 benjaminlu86 8 months ago
    @LK4O4 Hope so. I also hope the Hawaii and NH legislators recognize that this step does just about jack squat to address the actual problem.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #9 LBD_Nytetrayn 8 months ago

    "There! That should do it!" *walks away*Edited 2 times. Last edited February 2018 by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for Sturat #10 Sturat 8 months ago
    So, will their new website teach me how to disable loot boxes and other pay-to-win features?
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