In an announcement, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) revealed today that a new label will soon begin appearing on physical game boxes and online stores that warns consumers of games that offer in-game purchases. The decision seems to be a reaction to the recent rise of controversies surrounding microtransaction-based loot boxes in games.
Regarding this upcoming label, ESRB president Patricia Vance stated:
“The video game industry is evolving and innovating continually, as is the ESRB rating system. ESRB’s goal is to ensure that parents have the most up-to-date and comprehensive tools at their disposal to help them decide which games are appropriate for their children.
With the new In-Game Purchases interactive element coming to physical games, parents will know when a game contains offers for players to purchase additional content. Moreover, we will be expanding our efforts to educate parents about the controls currently at their disposal to manage in-game spending before their kids press ‘Start’.”
However, there is a caveat. The label won't be restricted to just appearing on games that offer microtransactions or loot boxes, it will also be applied on games that offer season passes, original soundtracks, or almost any kind of additional paid content, whether they affect the game directly or not. It certainly sounds like almost every new game will be hit by this new label.
In a statement provided via GamesIndustry, Vance elaborated on the decision, saying "we've done a lot of research over the past several weeks and months, particularly among parents. 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."
"Parents need simple information," she added. "We can't overwhelm them with a lot of detail. We need to be clear, concise, and make it easy for them. We have not found that parents are differentiating between a lot of these different mechanics. They just know there might be something in the game they can spend money on."
The seemingly heavy-handed decision is regarded by the ESRB as a "couple of steps forward," and the board will be continuing to look at more options to "ensure there are effective disclosures about in-game purchases in general, and more specifically loot boxes."