Last week, ESRB in the US and PEGI in the EU announced they would both be amending their video game rating systems to use a “includes random items” label to “help” consumers identify which games include lockboxes, lootboxes, gambleboxes, gacha, or whatever else you want to call them. I am about as impressed with these moves as I was then the ESA moved to encourage game companies to disclose odds for gambleboxes last August, which is to say not remotely impressed. (That one was supposed to be formalized this year. Somehow, I suspect it won’t be.)
In the case of PEGI and the ESRB, both boards already had explicitly gambling-related descriptors and verbiage that could be used here, if they so chose. It seems to me a conscious effort by these industry-controlled ratings boards to give an inch and hope everyone’s too distracted to demand the mile. On top of that, “includes random items” is super vague and generic. If I weren’t literally a games journalist and somebody paying very close attention to all this, I’d probably have no idea what that meant, even when it’s attached to the in-game purchases label. I’d probably assume it referred to basic ol’ RNG, not gambleboxes. This intentional sleight of hand makes me trust these orgs even less than I did before – a bit like when the gaming giants tried to soften mechanics like “lockbox” with words like “lootbox.”
But of course, other folks are probably just glad to see these boards giving any acknowledgment to the problem at all. Ceding territory, however grudgingly, is still ceding territory, right? What do you think about it – does ESRB’s and PEGI’s new lockbox label go far enough?