The three big console makers have just pledged to put an end to the “gambling” aspect of lootboxes, meaning the gaming industry might finally put this whole shady moneymaking operation behind us — and not a moment too soon.
The Federal Trade Commission’s August workshop on lootboxes appears to have made some serious waves in the industry — within days, the Electronic Software Association (ESA) reports the three console manufacturers are “committing to new platform policies that will require paid loot boxes in games developed for their platforms to disclose information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining randomized virtual items.”
That means Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft won’t allow games on their consoles if they have what we currently recognize as lootboxes: the mystery crates you purchase which can either give you rare items or common rubbish. That would excise the main complaint against lootboxes: namely, that they somehow coax children into gambling habits by dint of being… well, gambling. If you know ahead of time what you’re going to get, you’ll at least be informed on how you’re spending your money.
Still, if I may play devil’s advocate, I think all of us deep down know we’re more likely to get common garbage in a lootbox. We kind of know the odds, even if we don’t know exact numbers. I’d be curious to see if this actually discourages anyone from buying lootboxes. Maybe actually seeing the numbers will change a few minds.
The idea that children are the victims of lootboxes is still fundamentally flawed, but apparently it was enough to get Senator Maggie Hassan to pledge an FTC investigation. Presumably this would also address Sen. Josh Hawley’s concerns that led him to draft up a “Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act.”
In addition to all of the major console manufacturers flexing their muscles, the ESA reports a whole troop of game publishing companies have pledged to report their lootboxes’ odds. The list includes Electronic Arts, Warner Bros, Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, and Ubisoft. The first two are especially fitting given that EA and Warner Bros inadvertently started this whole mess with Star Wars Battlefront II and Middle Earth: Shadow of War, respectively.
The console makers reportedly intend to roll out these new policies in 2020.