ESRB introduces a new label to indicate that a game has loot boxes

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which is the organization that rates the content of video games, announced a new label today to indicate that a game will offer in-game purchases of loot boxes or similar types of items that provide a player with randomized rewards.

“This new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency (or with virtual coins or other forms of in-game currency that can be purchased with real world currency) for which the player doesn’t know prior to purchase the specific digital goods or premiums they will be receiving (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards),” according to the ESRB. The label will be applied to “loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more,” the organization said.

The new label will sit below the game’s content rating, as seen in the photo above. The ESRB originally introduced the “in-game purchases” label in February 2018, but that label was broad enough that it could be applied to any game that offered any sort of buyable digital good, including non-randomized items like subscriptions, season passes, or upgrades to disable ads.

Loot boxes have come under heavy criticism for resembling gambling by hooking gamers and children into spending real money in the hope of acquiring sought-after in-game items. The ESRB said today since creating the in-game purchases label, “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.”

Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have committed to requiring publishers of games on their platforms to disclose the odds of receiving items from loot boxes and are targeting sometime in 2020 for that policy to take effect. And many major game publishers have also committed to disclosing loot box odds by the end of 2020.