The video game industry is committed to providing consumers with more information about their purchases

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Several big players in video games announced new initiatives to help consumers make informed choices about their video game purchases. These initiatives were announced at a workshop on loot boxes organized by the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., and attended by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the equivalent of the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) in the United States.

Many ESA and ISFE member companies, including console manufacturers and publishers, will implement new policies to inform consumers of the relative scarcity or probability of obtaining random virtual objects or ‘loot’ for their video games. Paid loot boxes in games developed for platforms of major console manufacturers will have to reveal information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining random virtual objects. The objective of manufacturers is to implement these policies by 2020. In addition, the main publishers have agreed to disclose the relative rarity or probability of obtaining virtual objects in the game from paid loot boxes by the end of 2020 at the latest. Several member publishers are already doing so, and many others are considering doing the same. This disclosure will apply to all new games and updates to games with loot boxes. For more information, visit the ESA website: https://www.theesa.com/perspectives/video-game-industry-commitments-to-further-inform-consumer-purchases/

Simon Little, CEO of ISFE, commented on these initiatives: "ISFE welcomes today's initiatives to ensure global engagement, by all stakeholders in the sector, in favour of greater transparency for our players. This greater transparency will be achieved by providing information on the relative rarity or probability of obtaining random virtual objects, by disclosing ‘drop rates’ (probability of obtaining a particular object).

The video game industry takes its responsibility to players and consumers, including minors, very seriously. The ISFE is at the forefront of initiatives to raise the bar on harmonised self-regulation in Europe and responsible video game practice, through parental control tools, national information campaigns and the pan-European games information organisation, PEGI, which publishes the age classification and content descriptors for each video game in 38 European countries".

Additional information: the video game industry's commitment to transparency, responsible gaming and the protection of minors

In its efforts to ensure a high level of transparency for consumers and players, PEGI (the pan-European gaming information organisation) launched in August 2018, in addition to the drop rate disclosure initiative announced today, a "in-game purchases" icon to ensure that consumers are informed before purchasing a video game whether or not it includes integrated purchases. The "in-game purchases" icon applies to all games that offer the possibility to buy virtual goods with real money. It first appeared on the physical versions of games around the end of 2018, and was already applied to digital-only games.

It is important to note that major game consoles have parental control tools that allow parents to require prior authorization for any in-game purchase, or to completely disable in-game purchases. Through its pan-European age rating system, the sector conducts information campaigns throughout Europe, in local languages, to inform and advise parents about responsible gaming. The video game industry takes its responsibility towards children very seriously. ISFE wants to ensure that parents are well informed about the video games their children play, but most importantly, it wants to provide parents with information on how they can ensure the gaming behaviour of their children is safe and responsible.

More recently, ISFE has expressed concerns about the existence of gambling sites that appropriate characters and graphics similar to those of video games to attract minors. ISFE calls on the authorities to give more support to efforts to put an end to illegal practices such as skin betting, in which gambling sites allow minors to bet, buy and exchange virtual items. Video game companies do not allow, facilitate or tolerate the conversion of virtual currencies or other embedded objects into cash or their use on illegal gambling sites.

Gauthier Soinne