Loot boxes are under fire right now and some of gaming’s most influential companies are taking the matter into their own hands.
Major game console manufacturers Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have announced a new policy that requires game publishers to disclose loot box drop rates. A number of prominent video game publishers are willingly joining this initiative, including the likes of Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Ubisoft. The news was announced through the Electronic Software Association.
“Several video game industry leaders are announcing new initiatives to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases, including loot boxes,” the ESA said in a statement. “The major console makers…are committing to new platform policies that will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items.”
This new policy will not apply to PC titles.
Loot boxes have been a major source of controversy among gamers in recent years. Though they take on different forms from title to title, they most often function like a pack of trading cards by offering a set of potential in-game rewards with various rarities.
In games like Overwatch and Apex Legends, these rewards are entirely cosmetic as players get to make their characters or weapons more visually distinct than those of their teammates and opponents. In other games like Star Wars: Battlefront 2 and Mass Effect 3, loot boxes offered players the opportunity to purchase a competitive advantage in multiplayer modes.
The controversy surrounding these titles attracted the attention of members of the United States Congress, particularly Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who proposed the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act in May. The bill took specific aim at loot boxes and other maligned downloadable content options including for-pay shortcuts. Though the bill was met with mixed reactions from gamers, the industry itself was shaken by the news as loot box sales have become a key source of revenue for publishers.
This likely served as a wakeup call to the industry and a catalyst to offer up a sort of self-regulation to discourage such potentially harsh legislation. The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act stalled during the summer but still carries major ramifications within the industry.
The ESA and game industry no doubt hope this new policy will be enough to put the bill to bed. No exact date was given for when this will come into effect but according to the ESA, “console makers are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.”