ESRB to add 'In-Game Purchase' label to games featuring loot boxes
As politicians and high-ranking officials from around the world look for a solution to the loot box problem, The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has proposed an answer.
The much discussed monetization mechanic has come under fire in recent times, with some high-profile groups and officials suggesting loot boxes use "predatory" gambling tactics to prey on minors.
With that in mind, the U.S. ratings board intends to stick a new 'In-Game Purchase' label on physical releases containing paid-for downloads and add-ons of any sort, including loot boxes.
"This label, or as we call it interactive element, will appear on boxes (and wherever those games can be downloaded) for all games that offer the ability to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency," explained the ESRB in a tweet.
"This includes features like bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery rewards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes, upgrades (e.g., to disable ads) and more."
Speaking to Kotaku earlier today, ESRB president Patricia Vance confirmed any and all games that offer paid-for additional content will be forced to sport the new label -- irrespective of whether that's a $2 weapon skin or a hefty $20 expansion.
As for why the ESRB isn't specifically targeting loot boxes, Vance says most parents don't really know what a loot box is, so rather than confusing them with industry jargon, they've decided to cover everything under a blanket label.
"Parents need simple information," she told Kotaku. "We can't overwhelm them with a lot of detail. We have not found that parents are differentiating between these different mechanics."
"What we've learned is that a large majority of parents don't know what a loot box is. Even those who claim they do, don't really understand what a loot box is. So it's very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se."
The ESRB's response comes less than two weeks after U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan called on the group, along with the Federal Trade Commission, to protect consumers and children by scrutinizing loot box practices.
Hassan wasn't the first American official to speak out on the issue, with Hawaiian Representative Chris Lee having also recently championed four bills that could prohibit the use of loot boxes in the state.