- The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) oversees video game ratings in North America.
- On Tuesday, the ESRB announced that a new label will be applied to games “with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency.”
- The label will show up on retail boxes in stores, as well as on digital storefronts like the PlayStation Store and Xbox Games Store.
- The move comes after lawmakers in several states have proposed steps to regulate in-game purchases.
The group that oversees video-game ratings in North America just announced a huge change that impacts all games, and the future of the industry as a whole.
Going forward, any video game “with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency” must be labeled with a new sticker that says “In-Game Purchases.”
More directly: Any game with in-game purchases must now be labeled as such.
The move is a warning to consumers about potentially expensive components of a game they’re about to buy. The group that oversees game ratings in North America, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), is framing the move around parents being informed.
“With the new In-Game Purchases interactive element coming to physical games, parents will know when a game contains offers for players to purchase additional content,” ESRB president Patricia Vance said in the press release that announced the new labels.
Beyond informing parents, the move is in response to the controversy surrounding several notable video games released in 2017. The biggest most recent example is “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” which infuriated players with its choice to lock major characters behind a paywall (the move was quickly retracted).
Players were mad enough, and vocal enough, that legislators got involved at one point.
Then, in February, Senator Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire got in touch with the ESRB directly.
“I respectfully urge the ESRB to review the completeness of the board’s ratings process and policies as they relate to loot boxes, and to take into account the potential harm these types of micro-transactions may have on children,” Hassan wrote in the letter.
Without saying as much directly, the ESRB is adding the label in an attempt to assuage the concerns of legislators. It’s a small move, but it’s one that impacts all video games published on game consoles in North America. Whether or not consumers will notice the label, or care, is another question altogether.
Beyond the new label, the ESRB has also launched a website dedicated to educating parents on various aspects of gaming — from parental control instructions for each console, to information about how various online services work, and all sorts of other stuff.