Today, the Entertainment Software Association – the biggest game industry trade body in the United States – has announced that a broad initiative to disclose loot box odds across every game. The console manufacturers have plans to force loot box disclosures on a platform level, and the industry’s biggest players have agreed to run down real money drop rates by the end of 2020.
Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and Wizards of the Coast are listed as the publishers on board to have disclosures for “relative rarity or probability of obtaining in-game virtual items from purchased loot boxes” in place by the end of 2020. (Some of those publishers already do disclose their loot box odds, and some offer no loot boxes at all.)
Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will additionally require loot box drop rate disclosures for any games developed for their platforms – which covers the vast majority of the industry. The platform policies are currently scheduled to be put into place some time next year, and will also require drop rate disclosures even if loot boxes are added to a game in a later update.
“Taken together, these disclosures will help reach consumers playing across a variety of games, including PC games and other games delivered outside of the platforms,” the ESA says in its press release.
Later today, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on loot boxes, where regulators will meet with stakeholders including the ESA on the topic of randomised in-game purchases. The timing of this announcement is likely meant to show that the industry is capable of self-regulation – much like we saw with the formation of the ESRB when the government started eyeing videogame violence in the 90s.