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 ParentalTools.org, 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.