Loot boxes are in for a huge change, thanks to a voluntary agreement by the three platform holders, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo.
At a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) public panel on microtransactions in games, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced the agreement. While the ESA’s Michael Warnecke disagree with the negative reception to loot boxes overall, moving forward, any new titles or updates adding loot boxes on the three platforms will require the disclosure of rarity rates of items.
Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to the ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform.
Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games available on their platforms.
The three are not alone, with Warnecke noting that many industry publishers that are members of the ESA have already done so at the publisher level. This voluntary agreement now puts the platforms on par with mobile disclosure requirements.
A statement put out by the ESA shows a list of notable publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and Wizards of the Coast. The disclosures will come into effect by the end of 2020, with other ESA members considering to join the policy.
This approach would also be compatible with the Apple and Google approach on the mobile platform. We believe that, taken together, this provides a comprehensive approach to ensuring that consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to paid loot boxes.
Thanks to Gamespot, we now know how several publishers will go about rectifying the current status quo:
- Capcom: “Capcom will continue to comply with industry standard practices such as disclosures for ‘In-Game Purchases’ labels on packaging. Furthermore, to clarify, Capcom does not currently have console games that support purchasable loot boxes offering in-game virtual items, but will continue to monitor standards for potential policies in the future.”
- Electronic Arts: “We applaud the new initiatives from console makers and publishers to provide more information to players. Beginning last year, we introduced probability disclosures where applicable in all our new games, across all platforms, and will continue to provide this information to help our players as we move forward.”
- Epic Games: “Earlier this year, the Fortnite Save the World team made a change that showed players every item that they would get in a paid llama before opening it. Earlier this week, the team at Psyonix announced a similar change coming later this year to paid crates in Rocket League. Going forward, we’re committed to the same transparency for player purchases in all Epic Games titles.”
- Microsoft: “We believe in transparency with customers and providing them information for making their purchase decisions. This is a new policy that affects all new apps or games by 2020 offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms on Microsoft platforms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose to customers, prior to purchase, the odds of receiving each item. In addition, we’re proud to offer robust family settings that offer further control over in-game purchasing.”
- Nintendo: “At Nintendo, ensuring that our customers can make informed choices when they play our games is very important. As part of our ongoing efforts in this area, Nintendo will require disclosure of drop rates in Nintendo Switch games that offer randomized virtual items for purchase, such as loot boxes. This requirement will apply to all new games and includes updates to current games that add loot boxes through in-game purchases.”We also offer tools like our Nintendo Switch Parental Controls mobile app, which empowers parents to choose what works for their family, including managing in-game purchases and setting playtime limits.”
- Sony: “Sony Interactive Entertainment aims to ensure PlayStation users have access to information and tools, such as parental wallet controls, that will help them make informed decisions about in-game purchasing. We support industry efforts to disclose the probability of obtaining randomized virtual items, known as loot boxes, and are committed to providing consumers with this information for all games we produce and publish.”
- Wizards of the Coast: “Wizards of the Coast has championed the disclosure of odds when purchasing virtual items and will continue to ensure players and parents of players make informed choices about their purchases.