The Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, announced that major console companies Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have agreed to disclose the odds of loot boxes on their platforms. The three companies are working on new policies to regulate loot box mechanics on their consoles.
“I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform,” Michael Warnecke, ESA’s Chief Counsel for Tech Policy, said earlier today at the Inside the Game workshop on loot boxes held by the Federal Trade Commission.
“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 that are available on their platforms.” Warnecke added.
The comments followed Warnecke’s explanation of the industry’s earlier attempts to address the increasingly negative mood around loot box mechanics. The ESA advocated for an “in-game purchases” label on retail copies of games and platform-level spending controls that aim to limit compulsive buying.
According to a blog post recently added to the ESA website, all three major console companies are working towards finalizing guidelines on all platforms and implementing them on their consoles in 2020. Major publishers are also supporting the push against certain aspects of loot box mechanics, and have agreed to implement a similar disclosure policy “no later than the end of 2020,” including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros.
Warnecke explained that these upcoming policies are meant to provide “a comprehensive approach to ensuring consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to paid loot boxes.”
Loot box mechanics have drawn the attention of international governments, with opponents to the practice calling it exploitative, a risk for children, and a gateway to gambling. Some gaming companies are getting ahead of the backlash by voluntarily altering their own systems, as Psyonix’s Rocket League is doing with the removal of loot box cosmetics in favor of a system where luck is not a factor.
The upcoming 2020 change of policy on loot boxes will be new for console gaming, but is already in place on mobile platforms. Apple announced their own requirements for loot box mechanics to have odds disclosure in games for iOS in 2017, with Google following suit this past May.