ESRB Will Now Note When Games Have In-Game Purchases In Ratings

The decision comes as part of a new initiative to note certain "interactive elements" in games that parents might find concerning.

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The Entertainment Software Rating Board will now display if a game has in-game purchases with random elements like lootboxes in their ratings. In the blog that accompanies the new policy, the ESRB notes that while it began to label titles with in-game purchases back in April 2018, it has made the decision to note these elements due to research that suggests that parents are more concerned about randomized in-game purchases than other types.

The blog also notes that the ESRB felt that labelling these games with terms like "loot boxes" was insufficient, because there are many other mechanics for randomizing such items, including prize wheels or item packs. By using a general term, the ESRB says that the new "In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Elements)" notice will effectively communicate the presence of these possibly objectionable elements to parents and consumers.

This announcement comes as governments around the world have begun to consider or implement legislation aimed at curtailing lootboxes or other randomized elements, especially from children. Belgium famously banned the practice in 2018, and a bill to ban the sale of games with lootboxes to minors under the age of 18 was introduced to the US Senate in 2019. The Federal Trade Commission also hosted a public panel on microtransactions in video games late last year, which prompted major console manufacturers Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo to announce that games with lootboxes would be required to disclose drop rates.

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