Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Will Begin Disclosure of Loot Box Odds
Of all the controversies to come out of gaming in the last few years, loot box mechanics are one of the most explosive. The system has been likened to a warped form of gambling, one that exploits players for more of their money after buying an already finished product. This came to a head with 2017's Star Wars: Battlefront II, which featured overt pay-to-win mechanics that utterly negated the purpose of natural progression. The whole situation put EA in a lot of hot water, so much so that it has shaped and affected public shows and press conferences since then. With the major consensus behind loot boxes remaining against rather than for, it only makes sense that the Big Three themselves would step in on the problem too. A couple of days ago, the Entertainment Software Association announced a big change coming to the console space: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will all begin requiring loot box winnings odds to be disclosed ahead of time in any game that features them.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission put together a workshop on the subject of loot boxes, wherein Michael Warnecke, the ESA's chief counsel of tech policy, revealed the news. "I'm pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platforms," he stated. "Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms." For those who play mobile games often, you'll likely notice that this is a system Apple and Google have both implemented into their mobile platforms in recent years. With disclosed odds, this enables the people actually playing the games to make proper decisions with their money, rather than get the rug pulled out from under them due to random chance.
According to Warnecke, the Big Three plan on implementing this policy by sometime in 2020. It doesn't just stop at them, however. As he goes on to explain further, many big name publishers are also getting in on this initiative. These publishers include ones like Bethesda, Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Bungie, and Wizards of the Coast. For them, they're aiming for "no later than the end of 2020" to put in these changes. This timing will be right in time for the beginning of the new console generation, with rumblings of a PlayStation 5 behind the scenes and Microsoft's very public focus on "Project Scarlett".
This certainly isn't the first time big names have taken a stand on loot boxes. Just this past May, Missouri's Republican Senator Josh Hawley introduced a bill that would attempt to ban minors from purchasing games that feature microtransaction and loot box mechanics. It's since gone on to gain bipartisan support, which is especially notable given the rough political climate these days. With the Big Three stepping in and other publishers ready to follow, it's only a matter of time before the practice changes from what it once was just a couple of years ago. If you want to read the full synopsis of the FTC's workshop on loot boxes, you can check that out on their official website. It goes into everything they discussed, including the ESA's announcement for the big console manufacturers. For the ESA's own personal post on the situation, head over to their blog for more.