Update: An ESRB rating that noted that "in-game purchases" would feature in Pokemon Legends: Arceus is not tied to any in-game microstransactions.
A statement provided by Nintendo of Europe confirmed that "The ESRB rating in question for Pokemon Legends: Arceus is simply due to the fact that Nintendo Switch online functionality is supported. Because you can technically buy an extension to your NSO from the eShop, the rating for a game that has NSO functionality needs to carry that ESRB descriptor."
Original: Pokemon Legends: Arceus' recently published ESRB rating makes reference to "in-game purchases," which at first blush might be concerning to those weary of microtransactions, but it's just as likely referring to something much less controversial.
As evidenced by the ESRB ratings for Pokemon Sword and Shield, as well as the more recent Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pearl remake, "in-game purchases" doesn't always mean microtransactions. In those cases, that verbiage most likely refers to the in-game option to purchase a Switch Online subscription, which enables you to play multiplayer if you aren't already signed up. In Sword and Shield, you can buy the expansion pass through an in-game storefront, which opens up the possibility of something similar for Pokemon Legends: Arceus, but nothing's confirmed yet.
Of course, it's always possible Nintendo is in fact planning to incorporate some form of microtransactions in Pokemon Legends: Arceus - and in 2022 we certainly aren't ruling anything out - it's just worth pointing out that other microtransaction-free Pokemon games have the same lingo on their ESRB ratings. Either way, we've reached out to Nintendo for clarification, and we'll update this article if we hear back.
Pokemon Legends: Arceus is taking pocket monster fans to a brand new, clearly Breath of the Wild-inspired open world when it launches on January 28 - here are five ways it shakes up the series' formula. Also be sure to check out the latest trailer for your first look at how the game handles crafting.
In the meantime, check out our comprehensive guide to the best Pokemon games to see if there are any you might've missed.