Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will start requiring new and updated games that sell randomized loot boxes on their consoles to reveal the relative odds of getting individual in-game items through those loot boxes.
The announcement came during an FTC panel on loot boxes taking place in Washington, DC today. Entertainment Software Association Chief Counsel Michael Warnecke said that the three major console makers “have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platforms.
“Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features,” Warnecke continued. “And it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items on their platforms.” In a press release, the ESA said the console makers “are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.”
In addition to the console makers, Warnecke said that “many of the leading video game publishers of the ESA” will also be voluntarily disclosing such odds for their own games. Warnecke did not go into detail on which ESA publishers specifically were joining in on the move.
[Update: In a press release, the ESA says “Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts… Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast” are among the major publishers that will start disclosing loot box odds “by the end of 2020.” The release also says that “many other ESA members are considering a disclosure.”]
Apple has required similar odds disclosures in its iOS App Store games since late 2017. Google followed Apple’s lead with a similar requirement for games on Android’s Play Store in May. China and South Korea have also required loot box equipped games sold in those countries to disclose odds in recent years.
These previous regulations, as well as pressure from governments and gambling commissions worldwide, have already led to the public revelation of loot box odds for games ranging from to in the recent past. Added requirements from the console makers, and apparent coordination with the ESA, should only increase this trend.
Warnecke said this new move toward odds disclosure builds on the ESRB’s previous efforts to add a packaging label to games with in-game purchases and existing “spending control features” available to parents on major consoles and EA’s Origin platform. “Taken together, this provides a comprehensive approach to ensuring that consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchase decisions when it comes to loot boxes,” Warnecke said.
Ars will be following along with the FTC’s loot box panel all day and will bring you relevant news as it happens.