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.