ESRB to begin labeling in-game purchases

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board says it’ll point out everything from season passes to loot boxes

The ESRB, which according to its website is “the non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns ratings for video games and apps so parents can make informed choices,” has announced it’ll begin labeling physical and digital game releases with a new label that will indicate when a game includes any type of in-game purchases.

Loot boxes and other microtransactions have become quite controversial among the gaming community as of late and they’ve even caught the attention of lawmakers. While the ESRB hasn’t weighed in on the issue as of yet, the group says they’ve been listening and this new label is a way to help inform consumers.

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The message was posted on social media on Tuesday and mentions that the new “In-Game Purchases” label will include every digital item that can be purchased with real-world money (commonly known as microtransactions), but will not specifically point out what types of digital purchases are available for a given title.

According to the announcement, these include:

  • Bonus levels
  • Skins
  • Surprise items (item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards)
  • Music
  • Virtual Coins (and other in-game currency)
  • Subscriptions
  • Season Passes
  • Upgrades (like disabling ads)
  • Other applicable digital goods

In addition to the new label, a website will launch soon that will help parents and gamers learn more about in-game purchases, according to an additional social media post by the ESRB. A video about the new site was also shared:

According to a report by GameSpot, the ESRB says the label is strictly for games that allow gamers to make these purchases from within the game itself and does not pertain to stand-alone or large DLC expansions.

When asked by GameSpot whether that would mean pretty much every game would carry the label since the offering of in-game transactions has become so popular with developers and publishers, the ESRB responded by saying some games don’t have in-game purchases.

The ESRB’s announcement went on to say the ESRB is looking at other ways to continue improving its services and information for parents and gamers. It doesn’t specify how,  calling this the “first step,” but we’ll keep you posted on any new developments as they’re announced.

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