May 17, 2022

ESRB to Include Whether a Game Has Microtransactions and/or Lootboxes

If you’re interested in buying a game but are worried about whether it has any lootboxes in it, the ESRB will now issue an appropriate categorisation. No more surprise in-game gambling!

Despite lootboxes having already hit critical mass, the ESRB will clamp down on their appearances from here on out.

The ESRB will include whether a game features loot boxes and more. The Board took to a blog post to make the announcement which notes:

“[In April 2018] the ESRB began assigning Interactive Elements to physical video games with the In-Game Purchases and Users Interact notices. The In-Game Purchases Interactive Element informs parents and other consumers of when a game offers the ability to purchase additional items [without leaving the game]. To provide even greater transparency about the nature of in-game items [available for purchase] the ESRB will now begin assigning a new Interactive Element: In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)“.

The ESRB went on to elaborate what the new notice will mean. It noted how the new tag will “be assigned [to any game] that contains in-game offers to purchase digital good … with real-world currency”. Anything where you “don’t know prior to purchase the specific digital goods received” will eligible. In other words, loot boxes/gambling mechanics!

If a game features any in-game “mystery prize” mechanic, the categorisation will apply. These include any game that feature; loot boxes; Gacha games; item/card packs; prize wheels; treasure chests (unless they’re part of the narrative like in a pirate adventure, for example), and more.

WARNING: Spin-to-Win Included

The ESRB notes that this tag will differentiate from games that offer other forms of additional purposes. Things like DLC or Expansions, for example. Those games will still bear the original “In-Game Purchases” tag. Only games that incorporate loot boxes et al will feature this new tag.

The ESRB also notes that it has made the decision to bring in this new categorisation thanks to research.

“…Parents are far more concerned about their child’s ability to spend real money in games than the fact that those [in-game] purchases may be randomised. This data helped to inform the introduction of the In-Game Purchases Interactive Element. That being said, since adding the In-Game Purchases notice, many game consumers and enthusiasts [not necessarily parents] have reached out to us asking the ESRB to include additional information to identify games that include randomised purchases.

The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests. By including more specificity about the randomised nature of the in-game purchases, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing or downloading a game, instead of finding out after the fact”.

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