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18% of all physical ESRB-rated games have received an 'in-game purchases' label

18% of all physical ESRB-rated games have received an 'in-game purchases' label

August 7, 2019 | By Alissa McAloon

The Entertainment Software Rating Board detailed some of the information it has gathered surrounding loot boxes and other in-game purchases as part of the FTC’s workshop on the monetization practice, noting in the process how last year’s decision to add an in-game purchases label to its ratings has fared in the process.

Specifically, the ESRB notes that 18 percent of all rating assessments for physical video games to date have resulted in an in-game purchases notice. That label itself was only implemented in April of 2018.

While the day’s discussion wasn’t limited to the impact of loot boxes on children, much of this portion of the chat dealt with how parents and children interact with games and monetization. During the presentations and panel discussion, both panelists and those in attendance pointed out that much of the messaging around loot boxes can be unclear, from the perspective of both parents and adults.

According to research cited by the ESRB, only 32 percent of parents know what a loot box is without any additional guidance, and that lack of up-front knowledge is why the ESRB opts to keep that in-game purchases label as vague as it is.

“It was the right decision based on our research,” explained ESRB president Patricia Vance. “Our rating system, at least the upfront information we provide prior to purchase, needs to be easy to digest or it is ignored."

Vance maintained that, beyond that, the onus is on parents to look at the games their children play and decide if any specific elements of those in-game purchases are inappropriate for their children, though others on the panel said that parents require and prefer as much information up-front as possible

The last leg of today’s workshop followed this morning’s news that the ESA is working with the likes of Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and a handful of its member companies on policies requiring more transparency in how loot boxes are implemented.

Meanwhile, those speaking on this final panel fundamentally disagree if industry self-regulation like that step announced earlier today can ultimately address growing concerns about how video games use loot boxes.

Those near-final remarks ranged from Vance of the ESRB’s view that “self-regulation has worked very well” to National Council on Problem Gambling executive director Keith Whyte’s comment that self-regulation cannot be effective when there’s a significant level of profit involved.

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