Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are all working on new platform policies requiring new games (and games updated with loot box features) to disclose loot box odds. Specifically, the probability you have of earning specific items through them.
We’ve seen some games, like PUBG, do this in the past – but it will soon become the standard across Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
The news came from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) chief counsel of tech policy Michael Warnecke at a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop focusing on the loot boxes issue earlier today.
“I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform,” said Michael Warnecke.
Warnecke touched on how this policy would be implemented as well. “Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms,” said Warnecke.
An exact date on when the policy would go into effect wasn’t given, but an ESA blog post says the three big console makers are targeting 2020. The ESA also said many prominent publishers are already disclosing loot box odds or will begin doing so before the end of 2020.
“Together, these publishers 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,” reads the blog post.
Star Wars: Battlefront II caused a massive firestorm of criticism when it released in 2017 with an egregious loot box system. Those headlines garnered the attention of the government and politicians. Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri introduced a bill in the Senate back in May that would ban the inclusion of “pay-to-win microtransactions and sales of loot boxes minor-oriented games.”
Today’s news shows the video game industry wants to get out in front of this before the government regulates it. Plus, more and more games are distancing themselves away from randomized loot boxes. Rocket League announced just yesterday it was ditching loot boxes in favor of a cosmetic system that shows exactly what you’re paying for. Cosmetic season passes, or cosmetic storefronts, seem to be the go-to replacement for loot boxes these days.
It’s a good move by the big three console makers and the ESA. We’ll see if this leads to an even bigger shift away from loot boxes in the future by developers and publishers.