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Major players in video game industry change policies to address ‘loot box’ criticism

Jason Koerner/Getty Images/Getty Images

The video-game industry -- responding to criticism that in-game purchases can amount to gambling or tempt kids into overspending -- is changing its policies.

Gaming-device makers Sony Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. will now disclose the probability that a buyer will obtain a desired item after a purchase. Game publishers such as Activision Blizzard Inc. and Electronic Arts Inc. will make the disclosures as well. Companies had already to agreed to include labeling that told consumers there would be opportunities to buy things within games, according to the Entertainment Software Association, a trade group.

Console makers are looking to adopt the new policies in 2020.


In-game purchases have been a huge source of revenue for the industry, which frequently charges extra for new characters, missions or weapons. Often the content is hidden inside what’s called a “loot box,” so buyers don’t know exactly which items they’ll be getting when they purchase the box.

Regulators around the world have grappled with whether that constitutes gambling. The approach also has led kids to spend more on games than their parents intended.

The new policies were announced the same day the U.S. Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop on the issue that included 14 speakers, many of them consumer advocates.

In May, a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill that would ban loot boxes in games aimed at players under 18. Belgium also has declared them illegal, and in addition to the FTC, regulators across Europe are looking at the issue.