Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony are going to require developers to disclose the odds of loot box drops.
The Entertainment Software Association has announced that the three companies will roll out a new policy that will require publishers to disclose information regarding the rarity of items in loot boxes in all new games and updates.
ESA Chief Counsel of Tech Policy Michael Warnecke made the announcement during a paenl with the Federal Trade Commission, which addresses the issue of loot boxes in gaming. Warnecke’s comments come following years of backlash and attempts to address how the games industry has employed them in titles such as Call of Duty. One of the previous attempts was to require retailers include labels on gamers purchased digitally or through brick-and-mortar stores that indicate that a game will feature in-game purchases.
“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,” Warnecke said. “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.”
Warnecke indicated that several major publishers who are members of the ESA have expressed that they will comply with the disclosures. This new policy of voluntary disclosure is similar to what the mobile games industry has been doing over the past few years. However, Warnecke was unable to disclose which publishers have agreed to the disclosures. Some of the major publishers that hold a membership with the ESA are Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Disney, Epic Games, Square Enix, Take-Two Interactive, and Ubisoft Entertainment. FandomWire has reached out to those individual publishers regarding their intentions to consent to the disclosures. We will provide further updates to this story as they come in.
“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.”
The recent panel comes following accusations from consumers that loot boxes are considered gambling that needs to be regulated. The ESA has previously commented that they do not consider loot boxes or micro transactions to be gambling based on their own research.
EDIT 1: A Microsoft spokesperson has responded to Fandomwire’s questions. In an e-mail with Fandomwire, a spokesperson has stated the following:
“We believe in transparency with customers and providing them information for making their purchase decisions. This is why by 2020 all new apps or games offering “loot boxes” or other mechanisms on Microsoft platforms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose to cutomers, 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.”
EDIT 2: Sony has responded to FandomWire’s questions. A spokesperson with Sony Interactive Entertainment had to say the following:
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 purchases. 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.
EDIT 3: Nintendo has responded to Fandomwire’s question. In an e-mail with FandomWire, Nintendo was able to provide this statement:
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.
What do you think of this news? Do you think the policy will work? Let us know in the comments below!