Following pressure from consumers and potential legislation from U.S. lawmakers, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has now approved the mandating of including labels on games that contain in-game microtransactions and post-launch downloadable content.
The label will feature the words “In-Game Purchases” and this will be required for any games containing “bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades (e.g., to disable ads).”
This means all games containing microtransactions and post-launch downloadable content will be required to have this label, somewhat defeating the purpose of such a label in the first place. Should you be able to purchase something from within the game itself, it will require this label.
Our readers mostly purchase their own games – this label wasn’t intended for them at all, unfortunately. It’s meant for parents who are otherwise clueless about what game little Timmy wants.
“Parents need simple information,” ESRB president Patricia Vance said. “We can’t overwhelm them with a lot of detail… We have not found that parents are differentiating between these different mechanics.”
When asked why there wasn’t a bigger distinction made between loot boxes and post-launch DLC, Vance said that after lots of research they found most parents don’t know what any of this stuff is. They figured instead of harping on just microtransactions, they wanted to include all purchasable content for a game after you buy the base game.
Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that this is very much going to be a thing moving forward, as having your game sold both in retail stores and on digital storefronts almost always requires being rated by your regional advisory/ratings board. The ESRB is on top of them all as they’re responsible for the American market.