ESRB Reveals Plans to Include a Loot Box Label for Games

The ESRB’s stance on the question of loot box practices and their relationship with gambling has already been pretty well established, but it would appear that mounting pressure from US and world governments is making them change their minds a bit. The oversight organization has just announced a new ESRB loot box label to be added to video games soon, granting consumers more information on what’s in their entertainment.

esrb loot box label

“The video game industry is evolving and innovating continually, as is the ESRB rating system,” says ESRB president Patricia Vance. In step with that statement, physical and digital games will soon have an In-Game Purchases label whenever a game has purchasable features like levels, skins, loot boxes or other digital items or unlocks.

In addition to the new label, the organization has launched a new website with information about tools parents can utilize to control the games their children play and manage functions for game systems such as content or spending limits.

“We’ve absorbed every tweet, email, Facebook post and singing telegram sent our way, and we’ve been developing a sensible approach to let gamers and parents know when a game offers the option to purchase digital content” reads a statement from the ESRB posted to Twitter. “This is the first step of many! We’ll continue to discuss how to further enhance our rating system with publishers, developers, gamers and especially parents.”

Our Thoughts

This is a good first step, but ultimately the onus still falls on developers and publishers to not include aggressive and predatory loot box mechanics in their games, or to just do away with loot boxes entirely. Still, progress is progress…unless, of course, you’re of the mindset that this isn’t progress enough.

Sources: press release, Twitter

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New Hampshire Senator Challenges ESRB to Re-Examine Loot Boxes

We already know that about the ESRB loot box stance, which amounted to a shrug of the shoulders and a heartfelt “meh”. Now a Senator from the state of New Hampshire is joining recent efforts from the US and the world to call for better oversight.

esrb loot box

In an open letter to the ESRB, New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan has called for the group to look into whether or not game publishers and developers are marketing loot boxes in “an ethical and transparent way that adequately protects the developing minds of young children from predatory practices.”

While Hassan would not classify loot boxes as gambling outright, she did express concern with “psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance” and acknowledged that loot boxes can become an expensive habit and that they present potential harm.

The ESRB responded to the letter, offering assurance that the group is changing with the times. “As the industry evolves, so does our rating system, and we will continue to make enhancements to ensure parents continue to be well-informed,” reads part of the response. “We will also continue to provide information about additional tools, including parental control guides, that help parents set spending and time limits and block potentially inappropriate games based on the ESRB-assigned age rating.”

Our Thoughts

The ESRB’s response does raise a reasonable point in that parents should indeed take more agency in what their children are playing and better sources of information may be helpful. However, both the ESRB and Sen. Hassan are missing a large part of the point on why loot boxes are predatory, as gambling-style mechanics can affect older minds just as deeply, if not moreso.

Source: Ars Technica via VG247

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The ESRB Says Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling

You’ve likely already seen the furor over gaming loot boxes rise up as a result of titles like Destiny 2 and Star Wars Battlefront 2, and were hoping that maybe the Entertainment Software Ratings Board would step in and corral things by classing loot boxes as gambling. The ESRB has officially made its stance known, and that stance is “meh”.

gaming loot boxes

In an email to Kotaku, the ESRB argues that loot boxes do not qualify as gambling because there’s a guarantee that players will get something no matter what. “We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have,” reads the response.

For the record, the ESRB does have alerts for “Real Gambling” – in-game wagers that cost real cash – and “Simulated Gambling” – betting with in-game currency. The ESRB does also have a listing for “Digital Purchases”, but that is only applied to digital games where additional content can be bought.

Our Thoughts

Lockboxes suck. There’s no way around it. They’re easily the most predatory and crappy way to get money from people and they should be abolished. That said, one can’t help but think that this latest gaming-related static will only last a short while, and devs will simply have to ride out the storm and wait for things to calm down so they won’t have to enact any change.

Source: Kotaku

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