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Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony will ‘require’ developers to disclose loot boxes odds by 2020

In a joint statement via The Entertainment Software Association, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have announced new initiatives designed to aid consumers in making “informed choices” about their purchases, including information about loot boxes. 

Whilst there are no concrete details on when the plans will be implemented, the three hardware developers have confirmed they will “require” game developers releasing games on their platforms to disclose information about the “relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomised virtual items” by 2020. 

The news follows a workshop about loot boxes at the Federal Trade Commission’s Inside the Game event yesterday, which brought together a number of stakeholders, including industry representatives, consumer advocates, trade associations, academics, and government officials. Attendees discussed “concerns regarding the marketing and use of loot boxes and other in-game purchases”, and the “potential behavioural impact of these virtual rewards on young consumers”.

“As an industry, we take our role in this conversation seriously,” reads a statement on the ESA’s website. “We plan to underscore to the FTC our industry’s deep connection to our community and shared desire to work with policymakers, parents, and players to provide the information they need for a positive game experience. This includes the important work the industry has done to create robust parental controls.

“The video game industry relies on creating and sustaining relationships with our players based on fun, but just as importantly on trust,” it added. “One of the hallmarks of our industry is that we don’t just create entertainment value for our players, we listen to them.

“To further that effort, several video game industry leaders are announcing new initiatives to help consumers make informed choices about their purchases, including loot boxes. The major console makers – Sony Interactive Entertainment, operator of the PlayStation platform, Microsoft, operator of Xbox and Windows, and Nintendo, operator of the Nintendo Switch gaming platform – are committing to new platform policies that will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomised virtual items. These required disclosures will also apply to game updates, if the update adds new loot box features. The precise timing of this disclosure requirement is still being worked out, but the console makers are targeting 2020 for the implementation of the policy.”

To date, member companies who have also made the pledge include Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast.

As GI.biz points out, however, some member companies were notably absent from the list, including: 505 Games, Capcom, CI Games, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive Studios, Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive, Gearbox Publishing, GungHo, Intellivision Entertainment, Kalypso, Konami, Magic Leap, NCsoft, Natsume, Nexon, Rebellion, Riot Games, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Nordic, Tencent, and Marvelous.

“This would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features,” Entertainment Software Association chief counsel of tech policy, Michael Warnecke told GI.biz. “And it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomised virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.

“As well, many of the leading video game publishers of the Entertainment Software Association have decided that they are going to implement a similar approach at the publisher level to provide consumers this information and give them enhanced information to make purchase decisions.”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond.

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