ESRB To Add ‘In-Game’ Purchases Labels to Games with Loot Boxes and Microtransactions

The ESRB announced yesterday that they are going to begin requiring an extra label placed on game boxes that feature any sort of in-game purchase system. Here’s the full statement:

You may have noticed that we’ve been a little quiet on the topic of in-game purchases and loot boxes, but we’ve been listening. In fact, we’ve absorbed every tweet, email, Facebook post and singing telegram sent our way, and we’ve been working to develop a sensible approach to let gamers and parents know when a game offers the option to purchase additional content. Starting soon ESRB will begin assigning a brand-new label to physical games: In-Game Purchases. This label, or as we call it interactive element, will appear on boxes (and where those games can be downloaded) for all games that offer the ability to purchase digital goods of premiums with real world currency. This includes features like bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes, upgrades (e.g., to disable ads) and more.

We’re also launching a new website to help raise awareness of the helpful tools that parents can use to manage the amount of time or money those crafty kids spend playing games. This is the first step of many! We’ll continue to discuss how to further enhance our rating system with publishers, developers, gamers and especially parents, and we’ll continue to make adjustments as the need arises.

Thank you for all your patience on this, and your love for the games we rate.

While it must be admitted that it’s nice to see something being done about loot boxes and their ilk, one wonders how exactly an extra label is going to do anything to solve the real problems loot boxes and excessive microtransactions present to young gamers and their parents. Remember, the ESRB was originally formed as a measure to protect game companies from regulations, not a tool to represent the interests of the gaming consumer. At present, this looks more like an attempt to pass responsibility onto parents and consumers rather than a means to hold the light up to publishers’ faces and force them to confront their overreaching and short-sighted practices.

Hopefully this won’t always be the case, but, with microtransactions and loot boxes being so ridiculously profitable, it’s unlikely that this development practice will be changing anytime soon.

What’s your take on this? What would you like to see done when it comes to lootboxes?

Lede image from Flickr user BagoGames (cc)

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