Apple, in what may be a trend-setting decision, now requires any App Store game with loot boxes to disclose the odds of receiving items from them.
“Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomised virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase,” a bullet point added to the 3.1.1 in-app purchase clause now reads (via TouchArcade).
Forcing disclosure of odds is something China has required all games to do, by law, since May. It’s how we learned Overwatch awards an epic item once every 5.5 loot boxes and a legendary once every 13.5 loot boxes.
It will be illuminating to see whether other platforms follow Apple’s lead, and, on a more nuts and bolts level, exactly what kind of odds we’re up against in the games we play.
Loot boxes, and whether or not their inherent randomness represents gambling, is a scorching hot topic at the moment and rightly so. The UK Gambling Commission is looking into it, as is the Belgian Gaming Commission. In Hawaii, meanwhile, Democrat rep Chris Lee went as far as to call Battlefront 2 “a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money”.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 has been the poster-game of loot box hate. But in its case it isn’t the random nature of loot boxes themselves that’s the problem so much as their contents being fundamental to how you progress and grow in power through the game – an aggressively greedy system completely out of place in a full-price product. And the reaction to it has been fierce – so fierce, in fact, EA had to temporarily suspend real-money sale of loot boxes in the game. EA has said microtransactions will return to Star Wars Battlefront 2 but when, we don’t know.