Apple now demands lootbox odds disclosures from Appstore games

    
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No matter what type of mobile device you run as your daily driver, you’re probably going to be surprised to hear that Apple is the one getting out in front of the whole lockbox gambling thing. Turns out the company has updated its app guidelines to demand odds disclosures from games with lockboxes and lootboxes.

“Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.”

Given how many mobile games use these tactics – Hearthstone is coming immediately to mind – that’s going to make for some interesting spreadsheet crunching in the coming months.

As multiple people have pointed out, Apple rather likes doing business in China, and China is well-known for strictly regulating odds disclosure on gacha games and those similar. Companies like Blizzard and Grinding Gear Games have previously done the same.

In other gamblebox news, if you think the lootbox problem is just much ado about nothing, try reading accounts from people whose lives have been ruined after games manipulated them into legitimate gambling addiction. “If you tried to spend like that in a casino, they’d check your credit,” the journalist notes.

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A Dad Supreme

“Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.”

I notice the key word missing is “accurate” odds.

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Armsbend

If you lie about your odds then you face a clear violation of the Truth in Advertising law(s). At that point any of us can sue and win.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

I would say the missing word is “audits”. Without auditing, a number on a paper is worth nothing.

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Serrenity

I’ve launched a fair number of apps via the App store and Apple isn’t screwing around – you have to provide users to them and everything.

It is a huge pain as a developer, but results in a lot of crap never getting to the store.

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Tobasco da Gama

This is a great first step that really ought to be the bare minimum for all platforms.

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Arktouros

I’m curious to what lengths they will go to enforce their rules.

As Andrew pointed out below you can already do things like sell keys instead rather than the lockboxes themselves. You can also sell currency instead of lock boxes and then what people use said currency for may not be legally covered because legally you sold currency? There’s always been lots of ways to jump over/through these hurdles and hoops people place restrictions on. Just how aggressively will they go after games/companies who try to side step their rules?

While I think it’s interesting and all to show stories of people who go multi-thousands of dollars in debt the fact is that it’s a bit of a hyperbolic thing to point to. A person with an issue like that isn’t going to be stopped with percentages shown or hidden. Alcohol is regulated and that doesn’t stop kids from getting smashed drunk nor does it prevent an alcoholic from walking in and buying their fill. At some point personal accountability has to be a factor.

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Schmidt.Capela

The thing about the App Store is, it’s effectively a private venue. Apple doesn’t even have to give an explanation for why they are tossing a specific dev out. Thus, they can block games that are resorting to sleight of hand in order to avoid the odds disclosure “rule” without fear of legal issues.

Though of course, as you said, it depends on how far Apple wants to go.

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Arktouros

That’s the main curiosity. Because the legality would be more for them to say “Well you’re buying keys.” or “You’re buying currency.” and give them a plausible denability route of, “Random game elements, or RNG, is a core part of many games systems and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect every developer to list the odds of every aspect of their game.” or whatever justification while still giving them the moral ground to say they force anyone who directly sells lockboxes to disclose their odds.

However I’m pretty skeptical they’d shut down a big earner for them over something like this. At some point Apple gotta know/admit how the sausage gets made.

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Armsbend

When Apple even hints at taking an app off of their webstore the developers do whatever they say. Case in point: Uber, a huge company, backed down and did whatever Apple said for them to do at the mention of removing them from the store.

All it takes is a threat.

http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-ceo-tim-cook-threatened-travis-kalanick-over-ubers-app-in-2015-2017-4

some shitbird developer isn’t even in the same ballpark as Uber and never will be.

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zuldar

Obvious solution, the lootbox contains a 100% chance of getting a box that contains a random assortment of items. /s

It’s a start though; maybe others like Steam can be convinced into following this example.

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Sray

Apple sees and takes an opportunity to put themselves into a no lose scenario. This decision results in good publicity and good will for them. And if regulation is coming down the pipeline, they look prescient and curting edge; and that has positive effects on their stock price down the line. Plus, it puts them on a single worldwide policy that makes running their appstore easier in the long run. All from a move that has a negligible cost to them and, most likely, on their bottom line. This is just smart business.

Nick
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Nick

Are you sure the cost is negligible? I’m assuming Apple takes a cut of each transaction that happens on the app store, and this will cut down on transactions.

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Armsbend

Yeah…how is this no lose? It is a HUGE loss for Apple.

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rafael12104

Hmm. Well, I’d say it is negligible in comparison to their brand perception. As a brand, whether you like Apple or not, it is topshelf. And it is because of moves like this.

Apple will sell much more in the long run as a “good” brand even if they lose anything with this action.

But to be honest, I don’t think they will lose a dime.

Nick
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Nick

I agree with this, which is why it’s a good move. But I wouldn’t call turning one’s nose up at MILLIONS (probably BILLIONS) of dollars from loot boxes is anything to under-estimate. There are reasons games like Lineage 2 Revolution on the iPhone already earned nearly a billion dollars…

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rafael12104

Very true. When I say they won’t lose a dime, I’m implying that devs will cover themselves with an app update.

I’m sure they can provide the information in a way that meets Apples guidelines and still make huge profits.

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Sray

They’re not turning away any money though because these developers will update their apps and return to business as usual within 48 hours. As we already know, this type of disclosure has been in effect in China for years to virtually no significant loss in revenue for these companies. Apple knows this first hand as they are a vendor for these games there, and so do most of the game companies that sell via the appstore. The bulk of adjustment costs fall at the feet of companies selling via the appstore, minimizing Apple’s cost. So if anything, this is a move of convenience that likely will negate losses via a combined uptick in consumer confidence and lowered appstore costs due to having to test fewer versions of the same software.

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Sray

Publishing the odds of winning has a very small, basically negligible, effect on the overall purchase rate. North American lotteries have published odds of winning for years with virtually no effect on the botton line. Yes, this may result in the loss of as much as a couple hundred million dollars spread across the thousands of companies that give a percentage to Apple… which makes over 200 Billion in revenue per year. Publishing odds is a nice move, but the majority of people who regularly purchase loot boxes don’t really give a rat’s ass about the odds. Apple MIGHT lose a few million, but the boost in consumer confidence from this move may very well completely negate that.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

odds are good but the goods are odd.gif
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Armsbend

That 0.2% though. Prince Charming…place back in the castle…step mother gone…little Huntsman play on the side…WORTH IT

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Schlag Sweetleaf

You cheeky monkey you:p

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Alex Malone

This is an interesting move!

As I don’t use apple products (outside of work) and have never spent money on a mobile game (basically never play them at all) this won’t have any effect on me. But, I’m really curious to start seeing the numbers! Will be even more interesting when the numbers published don’t match the actual numbers used and some more companies get into trouble for lying.

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Danny Smith

You know the immediately interesting thing this effects? Hearthstone. Which in turn will reveal those rates for the amazon play stuff and battle net.

This is going to be interesting to watch.

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cursedseishi

Not really, when China pushed for Blizzard to do the exact same thing they got around it by shifting the purchases from lockboxes to currencies. It only requires the odds of items that are purchased to be disclosed, so when Blizzard made credits/dust available to buy instead for Overwatch/Hearthstone, they tossed in card packs and boxes as ‘bonus gifts’ that came complimentary with it.

This won’t have any effect on things. Unless Apple is harsher in their approach than China, you’ll see them changing the card packs you buy into buying the dust, with card packs tossed to you as a ‘freebie’.

Nick
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Nick

Awesome news! Laughing at all the “but Apple is a big company so I need to hate them” comments.

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Armsbend

Well the new news about them slowing down their phones because of their batteries is suspect. And you phone bricking just about every two years – when your contract runs out is suspect. Every new iOS wrecking your phone when the yearly release comes out is suspect. Not being able to replace batteries. Making old accessories invalid. etc etc.

Like I said earlier. Very, very annoying company. But not chaotic evil like EA, Comcast, Trump etc.

(don’t get in a tizzy guys just making the laffs)

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Schmidt.Capela

I wouldn’t mind the battery part if it was user-replaceable, like in most competing Android phones. The reasoning would be solid if there was more the user could do to fix the problem.

But then, the last time I purchased anything Apple, their motto was still that their products were made by hackers, for hackers. The hipster image and the control-freak attitude Apple has been cultivating for the last two decades effectively drove me away.

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Alex Willis

Are you kidding? You think the “need to hate” is because they’re big? There aren’t enough eyeroll.gifs for me to respond to this…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Apple_Inc.

Nick
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Nick

THEIR MOTIVES ARE EVIL

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Alex Willis

I stand by my obviously ironic comment, which, for the record, has nothing to do with the size of the organization.

Nick
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Nick

Their motives are to make money. Just like anyone else who rolls out of bed to go to work.

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Armsbend

Strict Capitalists have confused people into thinking the only reason any business exists is to make money. You can be a good corporate citizen and make money at the same time.

Hiring people above average wages, being part of the community, closing on Sundays…all things that happen that don’t have to.

Nick
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Nick

Yes but at the end of the day to do nice things like pay above average wages, you need to make money. I don’t look at things in black & white and believe the company exists solely to make money – many people that work at companies like Apple say they do so because they want to innovate and create products people find useful and enjoy.

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Alex Willis

Their motives are to make money.

How to even begin? I know: I won’t. I don’t need to get into an internet discussion of capitalist morality.

Nick
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Nick

This is probably for the best.

Nick
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Nick

You do realize that the entire reason a wiki article about criticism exists for you to vomit up is because of the size and success of the company. Much like that is why this headline even matters. Now that is irony. What you referred to below, not so much.

Andrew Ross
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Andrew Ross

My question is will games that sell keys for lockboxes be off the hook?

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Armsbend

It might sound ridiculous that a C-level exec from Apple might not know what lootboxes are – nevermind keys to open them up – but I think this is a very real possibility. These guys run one of the largest companies on earth they may have never booted up a video game in their entire lives much less know or care about their day-to-day goings on.

So they look at a spreadsheet and underling hands them, sees the bar going up YOY and signed a document and walks out of the room. It takes news stories and courageous underlings to even mention this type of thing when they are raking in so much money over it.

People being cynical when Apple signs away, under no legal obligation mind you, potentially millions of dollars to do the right thing is truly folly.

tl;dr it may not fall under their directive but not from them knowingly turning a blind eye. Apple’s store is enormous and has a life of it’s own – among their other humongous moving parts – it is difficult to know about every little thing.

Nick
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Nick

Apple also signed away millions of dollars by not allowing porn on their store. Having some decency standards isn’t new to them.

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Schmidt.Capela

It’s kinda required for the family-friendly image Apple wants to cultivate.

This doesn’t mean they will renege on this latest push, mind; putting some limits on this kind of gambling is also in line with their intended family-friendly image, and should cost them far less than their no pornography rule.