The ESA says a crapton of game companies are finally embracing lockbox transparency

    
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Under pressure from no less than the US Senate, the FTC held the first of its planned video game monetization workshops today, and while it’s not even over yet, we’ve already gotten some pretty big news out of it: The ESA announced that the major platforms will require disclosure of odds for lootboxes and other monetized gambling in new and updated games – i.e., transparent lockboxes. It doesn’t seem that this is a formally mandated ESA policy, as the organization suggests that game companies are still discussing the terms of compliance, but it does sound as if it’ll be the new norm as of next year.

“To further that effort, several video game industry leaders are announcing new initiatives to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases, including loot boxes. The major console makers – Sony Interactive Entertainment, operator of the PlayStation platform, Microsoft, operator of Xbox and Windows, and Nintendo, operator of the Nintendo Switch gaming platform – are committing to new platform policies that will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items. These required disclosures will also apply to game updates, if the update adds new loot box features. The precise timing of this disclosure requirement is still being worked out, but the console makers are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.”

We were a tad surprised to see EA on the list of companies, given that studio’s recent claim at a UK government hearing that lootboxes constitute enjoyable surprise mechanics.

“In addition, several of ESA’s publisher members already disclose the relative rarity or probability of obtaining in-game virtual items from purchased loot boxes, and other major publishers have agreed to do so no later than the end of 2020. Together, these publishers include Activision Blizzard, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast. Many other ESA members are considering a disclosure. The disclosure will apply to all new games and updates to games that add such in-game purchases and will be presented in a manner that is understandable and easily accessed.”

Of course, these companies are rather late to the transparent lockbox game, as multiple companies, platforms, and online games have long since made this move, even before lockboxes disturbed the mainstream peace at the end of 2017. Just this week, developer Psyonix announced it was making Rocket League’s lockboxes fully transparent too. “Later this year we will remove all paid, randomized Crates from Rocket League, replacing them with a system that shows the exact items you’re buying in advance,” the company wrote.

Further reading:

Source: ESA

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Barnoc N'Draak

It’s a sad commentary on how bad things have gotten that this is even being regarded as a partial victory.

Any game that relies on this for monetization should be, at the minimum, 18+ like other forms of gambling. It wouldn’t stop kids from getting them, but an adult only rating would give a lot of non-gamer parents pause and potentially stop retailers from stocking them.

Dantos
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Dantos

The cynic in me is thinking, that while Nintendo et al. will be requiring odds to be posted, game companies will use one set of odds for the consoles, and worse, undisplayed odds on PC.

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Barnoc N'Draak

If Microsoft was serious about throwing their weight around, they could probably find a way.
(directx?)

I remember waaay back when Verant considered alt-tabbing in EQ to be off-limits but then had to do an about face when someone from the community pointed out that the windows tos forbade software to disable that functionality.

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Ballistic Betty

I think the real way for game companies to deal with lootboxes is to just make them a fun optional item to the game that can be monetized but have a fun factor to it. If for example you could have the option of getting a low value free item (like a heal potion or something) that is slightly above the normal loot you may get, and/or choosing to pay to get a chance at a much higher value item, and/or just sell the thing for in game currency, having multiple levels of value for the item is what I mean (like in TSW). So that even if you choose not to pay it would still have value. There could even be multiple tiers to it depending on item value, and the amount you want to pay, but regardless it would still be an item that you would want to get as loot, rather than an annoyance. If you even want lootboxes in your game which I think the best option is not to have them at all, but whatever, everybody’s gotta make a buck I suppose.

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MassivelyMacD

“Being under pressure from no less than the US senate” is more than you could ever say about the NRA, isn’t it?
ESA companies should develop a strategy of explaining how more loot boxes are a means of securing lives in the public, then all is fine and dandy.

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Schmidt.Capela

A quote from Omeed Dariani, CEO of Online Performers Group, which represents many Twitch and Youtube “celebrities”, at the FTC panel today, when talking about publisher-sponsored lootbox-opening videos:

“I’ve definitely been in a room where a publisher said, ‘We could do better odds on the packs that this person opens for promotional purposes.’”

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Richard de Leon III

Sorry, not enough, lockboxes purchased with real currency needs to be banned. I’m ok with them being in-game rewards or be bought with in-game currency. And no, if you can buy in-game currency with real life currency that is also should be banned.

kjempff
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kjempff

Knowing the odds have never stopped anyone from gambling, not to mention odds means absolutely nothing to kids.
Don’t negotiate with the indistry, they got no leverage and there is no long term negative consequence with drawing a line… Just make thedamn law.

“for the common good of the people, you can no longer be assholes. We are sorry about this, but in many other areas we also make laws to protect people from getting abused and tricked. Maybe you could try to make good games that people will pay for because they are good? Just a thought.”

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Damon Anderson

Cool, the only time I have actually enjoyed lootboxes was in TSW, I think the way Funcom implemented them was a good way to do it, it was clear what you had a chance to get and if you didn’t want to pay to open it you could just sell it for in game currency, so it actually had a purpose other than taking up an inventory slot till you paid to open it as I have seen in some games. I think if game companies made lootboxes something you actually wanted to get as loot whether you want to pay to open it or not, would actually be a fun mechanic rather than a cash grab, and yes transparency of odds and possible items is a must. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the idea of lootboxes (who doesn’t buy a lottery ticket now and then) it’s just the way they are implemented.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

if they’re transparent then they wont be surprise mechanics anymore and ive been assured no one wants that

xpsync
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xpsync

ffs stop trying to dance around the issue before you end up not having it all , stop playing f’ing games, put on the oddds, and start making games again.