Google Play Begins Requiring Games With Loot Boxes To Disclose The Odds
Loot boxes are a major part of the video game industry right now. Basically, inside of a lot of games you may already play, you pay for a randomized prize, with the odds always being substantially low to receive anything considered cool, let alone valuable. To help gamers with this, Google will begin to require game developers to make public the actual odds, also known as probabilities, of scoring something good.
Noted by Android Police, the language Google chooses to use is very straightforward with how odds should be provided to potential in-game buyers.
Apps offering mechanisms to receive randomized virtual items from a purchase (i.e. ‘loot boxes’) must clearly disclose the odds of receiving those items in advance of purchase.
Thankfully, a lot of big titles have already gone ahead and have been disclosing this information in their games for a bit. For example, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes began offering Pack Probabilities in August of last year. The same goes for recently released Godzilla Defense Force, which states that the chances of getting a 5 star-level card in certain packs is 4%. In other packs, it’s a lowly 1%. The preemptive disclosing of this information likely stems from the various lawsuits and legislature that is popping up all across the world.
The monetization method has expanded to console gaming and, in some cases, is deliberately designed to restrict gameplay that doesn’t involve loot box purchases.
Though the exact nature of loot boxes varies based on each game, they often work by teasing but not promising certain valuable items. Players only know what they receive after they purchase the loot box, and more often than not the items are of low value and usefulness. Vulnerable players seeking high-value items may then repeatedly make purchases without knowing the actual odds of getting the items they want.
Under its updated policies, developers must reveal the loot box odds to players before they purchase the in-game item. The move comes amid growing legal restrictions on loot boxes, which were recently declared a form of gaming in Belgium. As well, China has required loot box odds disclosures since 2017, and the US is currently considering a bill that would make it illegal to sell loot boxes to minors.
The practice has also generated lawsuits: the parents of an underage Fortnite player sued its developer Epic in February, claiming they’d been harmed by its “predatory” Llama loot boxes. Epic changed its policies in January so that players could see what they were buying.
In addition to the loot box rule, Google now requires developers to set a target audience for their apps, and apps that target children (either exclusively or alongside adults) must follow its family policies. That includes limiting the type of advertising that can appear, adding safety warnings to augmented reality experiences, and disclosing what kind of information they’re gathering about children. Apps that are specifically aimed at children must also follow the stricter rules of a “Designed for Families” category.