ESRB Adds New Rating For Games With Random Microtransactions

From hereon, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) will be giving a new label to games that offer randomized loot through microtransactions.

According to an announcement made just a few hours back, the physical copies of all such games will be marked as “In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)” that covers microtransactions like loot boxes, card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more. ESRB wants the new label to serve as a warning sign to caution customers against what could be predatory business models.

“In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums,” says ESRB, “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.”

Following the controversial release of Star Wars: Battlefront 2, a lot of noise was made to somehow regulate games with gambling-like microtransactions. ESRB came up with an “In-Game Purchases” label that can already be found on the physical copies of existing games. However, that label was only pointing out microtransactions, and not the actual nature of those microtransactions.

While some games sell items where buyers know exactly what they are buying, other games keep it completely random. Hence, in the latter, a player dealing with gambling habits or who is an compulsive spender will likely be reeled in to keep purchasing loot boxes, for example, until they unlock a particular reward by chance. Hence, the new label announced by ESRB basically updates the old one to offer more clarity and transparency.

According to ESRB, the original “In-Game Purchases” label will still be assigned to games that offer any other type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, DLC, expansions, etc. However, going forward it will not be assigned to games with loot boxes or similar mechanics and where the new “In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)” will be used to indicate randomized elements.

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