Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony, the three major gaming console manufacturers, will soon require publishers to disclose the odds of obtaining items through loot boxes.
Loot boxes are a form of consumable item that offers randomized rewards when opened. Typically, these are included in games at a premium, with players being encouraged to spend real money to buy them.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the U.S.-based lobbying group that represents gaming companies, said specific timing for implementation of these policies is still being worked out but a 2020 rollout window is being targeted.
Further, many third-party publishers have also committed to implementing this disclosure no later than 2020. Some of these publishers include Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. However, major companies who have yet to make a commitment include Capcom, Disney Interactive Studios, Epic Games, Konami and Square Enix.
The move towards greater transparency with loot boxes comes amidst an ongoing debate over the ethics and legality of the business practice, especially in games played by children.
In fact, some countries, like Belgium, have even argued that they’re a form of gambling and cracked down hard on them. This has resulted in, among other changes, Electronic Arts ending the sale of its lucrative FIFA Ultimate Team packs in the country.
In North America, the war on loot boxes has progressed a bit more slowly. In the U.S., lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban the sale of loot boxes to minors and make it unlawful for them to be included in youth-oriented games. There’s been no word yet of a similar initiative in Canada.
In the mobile space, Apple’s App Store has required the disclosure of loot box odds since December 2017, while Google’s Play Store implemented a similar policy in May.