Amid growing concern over randomized loot boxes in video games, several publishers are now committing to disclose the numbers behind them. Today the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, announced new initiatives including new platform policies requiring disclosure of probability on loot boxes.
In a statement posted on the ESA's site, it says Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have committed to new platform policies requiring that games with paid loot boxes disclose information on the "relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items." This will also apply to game updates that would add loot boxes at a later time, and all three are targeting 2020 for implementation of the policy.
Several other publishers have also committed to publishing their odds, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Wizards of the Coast, and the aforementioned three console manufacturers. These disclosures are agreed to be included no later than 2020 as well, and will be presented in a manner that is "understandable and easily accessed." While the three console makers are onboard, the ESA also says this will target PC and other platforms as well.
Despite not being listed above, publisher Epic has also made recent strides to address loot boxes, including Rocket League developer Psyonix planning to ditch its loot crate system later this year. While the ESRB has already added "In-Game Purchases" labels to video game packaging and several console manufacturers provide parental control options to limit or prevent spending, it seems extra steps are being taken to address the proliferation of loot boxes.
Spurred on by an FTC workshop being held today on "consumer issues related to loot boxes," the ESA says this is intended to "underscore to the FTC our industry's deep connection to our community and shared desire to work with policymakers, parents, and players to provide the information they need for a positive game experience."
Discussion around loot boxes has been rising, due in part to a loot box bill introduced by U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO). Though the U.K. Gambling Commission has ruled loot boxes don't constitute gambling under current legislation, there has still been a back-and-forth over the issue, including Electronic Arts' VP of legal and governmental affairs referring to loot boxes as "surprise mechanics" before U.K. parliament. Despite the comparison, it seems like the surprise is now being reduced for loot box openers as part of a new trend in randomized microtransactions.