The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), the organization that creates content ratings for games in North America, announced on Monday that they are adding a new ratings designation to account for loot boxes, gacha mechanics, and other randomized items. The new ratings label specifies if a game has in-game purchases with random items, which is an update to the previously broader "in-game purchases" warning label.
Back in 2018, the ESRB responded to calls for their ratings system to include the growing trend of loot boxes and other randomized purchases in games. Their original label of "In Game Purchases," while correct, failed to accurately explain games that had a random item feature, like Overwatch's loot boxes or Fortnite's Loot Llamas. The new designation - "In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)" - makes it clearer to consumers that the game includes purchases other than DLC, season passes, and other similar content.
The new rating will be assigned to video games that contain in-game offers that cost real money and have a randomized element (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards). The warning will apply to games with “loot boxes, gacha games, item or card packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, and more,” the ESRB said.
Polygon asked the ESRB how they would handle a rating for a game that doesn't include random items at launch, but adds them later. The ESRB replied and said, "Publishers are required to inform ESRB if they intend to add in-game purchases, randomized or otherwise, that will affect the assigned rating information post-release. Once the changes are evaluated, ESRB updates the game’s rating information on esrb.org and requires the publisher to include the updated rating information on game packaging, item web pages, and pertinent marketing materials."
The ESRB's blog details what parents and consumers need to know about loot boxes and in-game purchases and includes an update with the new rating information. What do you think of in-game loot box/gacha purchases? Do you participate in those yourself? Let us know in the comments.