ESRB video game ratings will now include specific warnings for games that sell loot boxes containing random items for real money.
The board revealed this new guideline today. When applicable, a note that a game "includes random items" will now sit below the existing warning of in-game purchases. This includes "loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more." Games that sell anything for real money, even if they aren't random, will still be marked for in-game purchases.
"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," the ESRB explains. "The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests."
The new label avoids the actual term loot box for a few reasons. Firstly, loot boxes don't encompass all things random. Card packs and gacha rolls are essentially loot boxes, but they're treated - or at least regarded - differently by many people. Secondly, not everyone knows what a loot box is.
"Recent research shows that less than a third of parents have both heard of a loot box and know what it is," the ESRB clarifies. "'Loot box' is a widely understood phrase in and around the video game industry and among dedicated gamers, but most people less familiar with games do not understand it. While this new label is primarily in response to feedback from game enthusiasts, it is still essential that all consumers, especially parents, have a clear understanding of the rating information we provide."