Video Game Boxes Get In-Game Purchase Warning

Boxed video games will soon carry a content warning if they allow in-game purchases such as loot boxes. The warning will be along the same lines as those for violence and sexual content.

The move may be an attempt to head off legislator concerns about whether loot boxes are a form of gambling and thus may require tighter regulation, particularly with purchases by children.

The box warnings will come from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which already labels boxes with a letter indicating the suitable audience, along with a list of specific content descriptions from Cartoon Violence to Use of Tobacco.

The new warning will cover any in-game feature that allows players to spend real-world money, including skins, in-game currency and downloadable content.

The warning won’t distinguish between purchases where players know exactly what they are getting and loot boxes where there’s an element of mystery. The ESRB says doing so would risk overloading parents with information and notes that “a large majority” wouldn’t understand a reference to a loot box anyway.

Instead it’s launching a new section on its website that explains how to set parental controls on different gaming systems and devices, along with how to set spending limits.

While the move may be welcomed by politicians who’ve questioned loot boxes, ESRB President Patricia Vance told Arstechnica the organization rejects the argument about gambling. In making her case she noted it’s possible to complete games without buying a loot box and that there’s no in-game mechanism to turn loot box ‘contents’ into real world money.

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