ESRB Rating

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board in North America might be working from home, but as noted yesterday, it's still business as usual. With this in mind, the organisation has just revealed it will now attach a warning to all of its ratings if a video game contains in-game purchases – including randomised items.

This builds upon the steps the organisation made in 2018 when it began assigning Interactive Elements to physical video games – with in-game purchases and user interact notices. Here's the full breakdown of the new label:

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 purchased 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).

In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) will be assigned to all games that include purchases with any randomized elements, including loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more. Games that have the In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) notice may also include other non-randomized paid elements.

The same ESRB blog post goes onto explain how original in-game purchases notice will still be assigned to games that offer any "other" type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, and DLC expansions. However, it will not be assigned to loot boxes or similar mechanics moving forward, to ensure customers understand when a game offers purchases with randomised elements.

The reason behind this decision is tied to research about parents are more concerned about their child's ability to spend real money in games, than in-game purchases being randomized.

This data helped to inform the introduction of the In-Game Purchases Interactive Element. That being 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 In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) Interactive Element was developed in response to those requests. By including more specificity about the randomized nature of the in-game purchases, consumers can make more informed decisions when purchasing or downloading a game, instead of finding out after the fact.

What do you think about this new label? Share your thoughts in the comments.