More than any other gaming trend in recent memory, the rise of loot boxes seems to be the most controversial. What started as a way to help fund free to play games or add a unique mode to sports games (like Fifa‘s Ultimate Team mode) has seeped into nearly every release, large or small. The controversy seemed to reach a fever pitch due to loot boxes in games that have no multiplayer component, such as Middle-earth: Shadow of War or games where the amount of in-game grinding time to unlock items is practically impossible to achieve, such as Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Different groups are now scrambling to determine what to do with loot boxes. The gaming industry would obviously like to make their own regulations regarding these items, but national governments are beginning to take a closer look to determine whether or not loot boxes count as gambling. Today, Apple made a slight change to their iOS App Store’s guidelines that state all games that contain loot boxes must disclose the odds of item rarity drops before a purchase is made. This is already the policy in China for all games.
The new official guideline can be found here, under section 3.1.1: In-App Purchase. The official rule states: “Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.”
It sounds like this rule applies to every time a loot box purchase is made, and not just a listing of the odds buried in the terms of service somewhere. I would be surprised if Android does not follow suit, and other platforms may keep up the trend as well.
Whether or not this affects the sale of loot boxes (or games that contain them) will be interesting data to study. It does seem odd that we have reached a point where games flaunt “No in-app purchases!” as a selling point, but here we are.