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It’s been no secret that loot boxes have created an intense controversy. With governments in the US and Europe threatening to crack down on the industry’s new practice, it wouldn’t be too long before the ESRB would step in to avoid any official oversight. In response to the outcry, the ESRB announced today that they will begin to label all games that feature in-game purchases.
This won’t be a loot box only kind of label, as the ESRB emphasized what they intend this label to include. Any game that allows the user to purchase something with real world money will feature this label. So loot boxes, DLC, season passes, in-game cosmetics, or really anything tied to a real currency will now be labeled by the ESRB. The ratings board clarified why they didn’t just target loot boxes, as they claim that parents weren’t even aware of them in the first place:
“What we learned is that a large majority of parents don’t know what a loot box is, and even those who claim they do don’t really understand what a loot box is. So it’s very important for us to not harp on loot boxes per se, but to make sure we’re capturing loot boxes but also other in-game transactions.”
The ESRB will also be launching a new site that teaches parents how to set up parental controls on a variety of devices to better control or understand how their children are playing.
This new label is clearly an attempt to avoid any new government oversight, but it seems like a small fix. I’d prefer to avoid any government body stepping in and deciding what can and cannot go into a video game, but the ESRB’s changes may not go far enough. When asked by Jason Schreier of Kotaku if this new label would just end up on all games, since nearly every game these days features some form of in-game purchase, the ESRB president responded, “There are games that do not have in-game purchases.”
Hopefully this isn’t the end of the debate, and the industry has heard loud and clear what consumers want to change. Loot boxes, as they are, aren’t acceptable. However neither is uninformed government regulations and unimpressive ESRB changes. There’s a solution to these problems, and I guess we’re still searching for it.