Apple recently made a major revision to their app store review guidelines, and it’s one that has some pretty strong implications for the industry at large. App developers will now be required to display the odds for item drops on any randomized, loot box-style purchase.
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The exact rule reads: “Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.”
Similar disclosures are required by law in China, but this is the first time such a major Western distributor has taken a strong stance in policing loot box purchases on their platform. The Chinese law tangentially provided us English-speakers with odds on some major games like Hearthstone, and the rules on iOS will make those numbers even more accessible.
The game industry at large has been resistant to calling loot boxes gambling, with groups like the ESRB and PEGI confirming they believe randomized digital purchases are an entirely different beast.
The issue has become large enough to attract the attention of governmental bodies, and approaches there are mixed. The UK Gambling Commission says a lack of monetary value outside the game prevents digital loot box goods from meeting the definition of gambling, while the Belgium Gaming Commission’s investigation into the matter is ongoing. Meanwhile, US lawmakers are continuing to explore options regarding the regulation of loot boxes.