European ratings board, Pan European Game Information (PEGI), has launched a new rating to inform users when a video game includes lootboxes – or “paid random items”, as the organisation calls them.
Like other indicators that, for example, highlight when games are violent or content mature content, the new label will be included on the back of game packs and listed below the “in-game purchases” icon (thanks, Eurogamer). PEGI describes paid random items as “all in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums where players don’t know exactly what they are getting prior to the purchase (e.g. loot boxes, card packs, prize wheels)”.
The rating will be applied to games with randomised elements regardless of whether or not the items are purchasable with real or in-game currency.
“Paid random items are a particular form of optional in-game purchases: they comprise all in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums where players don’t know exactly what they are getting prior to the purchase (e.g. loot boxes, card packs, prize wheels),” PEGI said. “Depending on the game, these items may be purely cosmetic or they may have functional value: they can include additional characters, outfits and other appearance upgrades, but also tools or weapons, etc. They may unlock extra levels, add new skills or provide performance upgrades.
“For the purpose of this descriptor, ‘paid’ random items are those that can be purchased directly with real money and/or those that can be exchanged for an in-game virtual currency that itself can be purchased directly with real money.”
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) also confirmed on the same day that it had launched a new rating designed to inform players when games include randomised items its in-game purchases.
“This new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real-world currency (or with virtual coins or other forms of in-game currency that can be purchased with real-world currency) for which the player doesn’t know prior to purchase the specific digital goods or premiums they will be receiving (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards),” the ESRB said in a detailed blog post.
The new rating will be applied to games that include “loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more”, whilst the “original In-Game Purchases notice will still be assigned to games that offer any other type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, DLC, expansions, etc”, but not games that only offer randomised loot boxes.
“The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests,” the ESRB said. “By including more specificity about the randomised nature of the in-game purchases, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing or downloading a game, instead of finding out after the fact.”