In an effort to regulate the increasingly controversial inclusion of loot boxes in many of the apps it sells, Apple has announced a major App Store guidelines revision. Going forward, all apps that include loot boxes must be transparent about their odds.
“Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase,” reads the new rule, which will affect some of the most popular games on iOS, including Hearthstone, Clash Royale and The Simpsons Tapped Out.
Loot boxes, which are essentially virtual grab bags containing a host of in-game items ranging from common to rare, have been common in mobile gaming for some time and can typically be purchased using in-game currency as well as real money. Recent controversies surrounding the inclusion of loot boxes in major console releases such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront II have led some to classify them as gambling — a classification that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) doesn’t recognize.
With Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront II in particular suffering a major consumer backlash that resulted in significantly lower-than-expected sales, Apple’s move could be the first of many steps taken by game publishers and distributors in the coming months to avoid similar repercussions or even regulation from outside bodies.