The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has officially announced that it will now begin assigning a specific new notice to video games that feature randomized loot boxes. Or, more accurately, the ESRB will use a "new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)" to cover loot boxes and similar mechanics. While it does not appear to be a retroactive addition, it does seem like it will apply going forward starting right now.
This new notice is in addition to the already existing notice for in-game purchases. Previously, the ESRB applied "In-Game Purchases" to physical games that included, well, in-game purchases. The new "(Includes Random Items)" is simply an add-on piece to let folks know a little more accurately what to expect.
#ESRB will begin assigning a new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items).April 13, 2020
"According 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 randomized," the ESRB states in its blog post revealing the new notice. "This data helped to inform the introduction of the In-Game Purchases Interactive Element. That being said, since adding the In-Game Purchases notice to ratings assigned to physical games 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 randomized purchases. The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests. By including more specificity about the randomized 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."0comments
As for why the notice doesn't simply say there are loot boxes inside, the ESRB claims that the intent her is to cover both loot boxes and other paid elements that might not be covered by that term. Plus, not everyone is going to be immediately familiar with the term, but if you basically say, "you can pay money for random gains," folks generally have an idea of what you mean.
What do you think of the new ESRB rating for loot boxes and in-app purchases? Do you think it will be useful for folks? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things gaming!