March 17, 2019
By Stanley Pierre-Louis, Chief Executive Officer, Entertainment Software Association
As the video game industry grows and evolves, we always encourage an open dialogue in order to address concerns from different perspectives. Lately, we put considerable effort into our dialogue with both players and policymakers on loot boxes. We’ve heard a lot of their concerns and want to discuss our thoughts as part of that conversation.
Loot boxes, which are an optional feature in some video games, are digital containers that players can open to receive a surprise selection of virtual items, ranging from a new team uniform in a sports game to a magic sword in a fantasy adventure game. Many loot boxes are earned through gameplay—doing things like completing a quest or finishing a specific level—but in some games, players can purchase loot boxes with real-world money.
Critics of purchasing loot boxes express concern about the element of randomness involved, likening them to gambling. Unlike gambling though, players will always receive something that enhances their experience from a loot box.
It’s the video game industry’s goal to ensure players have a positive experience when engaging with our games. We rely on creating a sustainable, long-term relationship with our players, and have no incentive to offer products that create a game environment that is not fun or fair.
It’s important to remember that loot boxes are always optional. They enhance the experience for those who choose to use them. However, if someone doesn’t want to purchase one, that’s fine, and they can still enjoy the same great game. We’re committed to helping video game purchasers make the best choices for themselves and their families. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns an “In-Game Purchases” notice in addition to the age and content rating displayed on video games, helping to inform consumers when games offer the option to purchase in-game content. In addition, parents can utilize the parental controls available on video game consoles and other devices to limit or restrict children from making purchases within games. The ESRB maintains a library of helpful parental control guides and other resources at esrb.org/parentaltools.
Responsiveness to consumer concerns is a hallmark of our industry. It’s why the Federal Trade Commission said the video game industry outpaces other media sectors in having the strongest self-regulatory code and complying with that code. And it’s why we caution against government intervention or regulation on loot boxes. No matter how well-intentioned, government regulation would hinder the ability of the industry to react quickly and create market-based solutions and prioritize innovation.
We’ll continue to rely on consumer feedback to improve the gameplay experience for players. Loot boxes and their continued evolution are just one example of how we listen to consumers. Our record of self-regulation speaks for itself. We will continue providing amazing experiences for players as the video game industry builds on its past and reimagines the future of interactive entertainment.