Microtransactions. It seems a game cannot be made these days without them. They started as a way to give players a little something extra to add to their games while giving developers some needed extra revenue. No harm no foul. Some developers however have been using them to milk all of the money they can from consumers. Some developers have been using microtransactions and DLC to actual complete unfinished games (*cough, cough* Street Fighter V), offer what were once unlockable items for a price (*clears throat* Dead or Alive) and even lock standard features in exchange for real money (*fuck you Metal Gear Survive). The list goes on and on.
The public outcry has reached the ESRB which has vowed to help inform consumers of which games feature in-game purchases with a fancy new label. Similar to what mobile apps have had for years, the new “In-Game Purchases” label will be applied to “games with in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency, including but not limited to bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades (e.g., to disable ads)”.
“The video game industry is evolving and innovating continually, as is the ESRB rating system. ESRB’s goal is to ensure that parents have the most up-to-date and comprehensive tools at their disposal to help them decide which games are appropriate for their children,” said ESRB president Patricia Vance. “With the new In-Game Purchases interactive element coming to physical games, parents will know when a game contains offers for players to purchase additional content. Moreover, we will be expanding our efforts to educate parents about the controls currently at their disposal to manage in-game spending before their kids press ‘Start’.”
“We are delighted to support ESRB’s continuing dedication to safeguarding children from inappropriate experiences both online and offline by providing parents with essential information about video games,” said Stephen Balkam, Founder and CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute. “ESRB’s decision to add the In-Game Purchases label to game boxes further empowers parents with the tools they need to make informed decisions for their families.”
While many gamers know what gamers will offer in-game purchases before buying them, these new labels may in fact deter some casual gamers and gift-giving family members from purchasing a game at retail if they are against in-game purchasing or have heard the some of the negative reactions surrounding microtransactions. Time will tell if this is a first step in a shift away from the predatory practices we have seen in gaming recently.