Today, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the self-regulatory association responsible for rating the content of video games, responded to the growing controversy over the industry's shift towards microtransactions, specifically the game-style booty systems favored by the most popular competitive multiplayer titles. Unfortunately, the ESRB solution is just a new "in-game shopping" tag that seems to apply to the vast majority of modern games, from Nintendo classics like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to EA & # 39 ; s Bungled Battlefront 2.
The criteria of the ESRB are extraordinarily broad and cover any game that offers "the possibility of buying digital products or premiums with a real world currency", regardless of the context. "This includes features such as bonus levels, masks, surprise items" such as item packs, spoils, mystery prizes), music, virtual coins and other forms of currency in the game, subscriptions, seasonal passes, updates (for example, deactivate ads) and more. "
The problem, of course, is that there is a substantial difference between these various types of in-game purchases, how they are implemented, and the amount of money that costs consumers. The ESRB does not delineate between what one might consider fair and chance-based in-game purchases. For example, a game like Fortnite Battle Royale from Epic Games, which does not contain any spoils but sells money in the game that can be used to buy cosmetic items altogether, would be considered the same as Blizzard's Overwatch, which only allows players to buy Slot-style loot cash packs with real money and no guarantee of eventual rewards.
Taken to the extreme, the new label of the ESRB seems to group almost all modern titles under the same ambiguous umbrella. Even a game like Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a single player title that offers downloadable content guided by history, would be included in the description of a title that offers "extra levels". The remake of the PS2 masterpiece Shadow of the Colossus is perhaps the only modern game that comes to mind as a title that would escape the label. However, if that game provided a link for the players in the menu to buy their soundtrack, it looks like they would get the "in-game shopping" tag.
In other words, the ESRB, which is a branch of the largest lobbying group in the video game industry, seems to have adopted a rather toothless approach to microtransactions and loot at a time when regulatory pressure only continues to gain momentum. Countries around the world adopt aggressive positions against booty systems, which critics compare with the gaming trade with children.
The United States, which is home to the world's largest video game companies and the most widespread corporate influence in politics, has been absent from the conversation. That is beginning to change. At the end of last month, three senators from Washington presented legislation that called for a study on whether the booties represent the game. A senator from the USA UU From New Hampshire earlier this month he asked the ESRB to provide more transparency and publicly available data on the implementation of booty loot.
However, the problem is more complex than it seems. The price of a big budget video game has remained relatively stable for years at around $ 60, all while the costs of development and production have skyrocketed as technical advances result in increasingly sophisticated games. The editors have seized the opportunity, due to a perceived need to account for the incredible costs, to create extensive game economies that charge players real money and keep those players engaged for months and years. The result can be exploitative in a way not unlike a casino, with the gameplay mechanisms of mobile and free games that have been spilled on the titles of consoles and PC at full price.
Still, without regulatory forces in Washington, the ESRB is unlikely to go any further. In a call with reporters this morning, ESRB president Patricia Vance said, "We certainly consider whether the loot boxes would constitute gambling or not," adding that "we do not believe that is the case." We think it's a fun way to acquire virtual objects to use within the game, "according to Kotaku.