North America’s games ratings board the ESRB will begin flagging games that contain random in-game purchases such as loot boxes or gacha mechanics.
The new classification element will be assigned to any game that contains in-game purchases that players can make without knowing what they’ll receive for their money.
That includes loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels and treasure chests, the ESRB said in a blog post on Monday.
The ratings board began flagging in-game purchases in 2018 to help inform parents and other consumers of when a game offers the ability to purchase additional items without leaving the game.
ESRB said the latest, additional clarification was introduced directly due to demand from consumers.
“Since adding the In-Game Purchases notice to ratings assigned to physical games many game consumers and enthusiasts (not necessarily parents) have reached out to us asking the ESRB to include additional information to identify games that include randomized purchases,” it said.
“The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests.
“By including more specificity about the randomized 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.”
The original In-Game Purchases notice will continue to be assigned to games that offer any other type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, DLC or expansions.
Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are planning to introduce new policies that require games made for their consoles to disclose loot box odds beginning this year.
The move follows a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s advice to the UK government to regulate loot boxes under gambling law and ban them from sale to children.
Having taken evidence from developers, trade bodies and academics, the committee reported in September 2019 a “lack of honesty and transparency” among social media and game company representatives.
Committee chair Damian Collins MP said it was time for companies to be more responsible and challenged the government’s stance that loot boxes aren’t gambling. If the government wants to maintain that position, it should publish a paper explaining why loot boxes are exempt from the Gambling Act, the committee said.