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ESRB Announces New Ratings Label for Loot Boxes

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The ESRB has announced a new ratings label for games with loot boxes and other randomized in-game purchases.

The ESRB created an "In-Game Purchases" rating label for games back in 2018 as a response to the loot box discourse that reached different state governments in the United States and elsewhere in the world like Belgium, and now the company has created a new label for random items. The label will still feature "In-Game Purchases" but now the label will say, "In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)."

"This new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency (or with virtual coins or other forms of in-game currency that can be purchases with real world currency) for which the player doesn't know prior to purchase the specific digital goods or premiums they will be receiving (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards)," the ESRB said in their announcement.

This new signage will be attached to any game that includes loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more, according to the ESRB. If a game has in-game purchases but no random items to be purchased, the game will receive only the "In-Game Purchases" rating.

This new rating comes by way of requests to the ESRB, the organization said.

"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 said. "The In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests."

The ESRB explained why it's not specifically using the words "Loot Boxes," which are words the gaming community as a whole typically use when referring to randomized in-game purchases. According to the ESRB, the organization wanted to ensure that the label covers all transactions with randomized elements — not just loot boxes. It also said that research shows that less than a third of parents have both heard the term "loot box" and understand what that term means.

"'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," the ESRB said. "While the 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."


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