The loot box business model has worked wonders for the likes of Blizzard and Riot Games, not to mention countless mobile game studios, but China officials are clamping down on the process, demanding that gaming publishers reveal to players the probability of earning a desirable item.
Loot boxes typically vary in price depending on the drop rate of certain items: the better the chance for a rare/powerful item in the loot box, the higher the price. Often there is a flat price, with no distinguishable rate to determine the chances of receiving a rare item.
That will change in China, however, with new regulations set to change the way publishers sell in-game aesthetics and upgrades.
The regulations say that online game publishers “shall promptly and publicly announce information about the name, property, content, quantity, and draw/forge probability of all virtual items and services that can be drawn/forge on the official website or a dedicated draw probability webpage of the game. The information on draw probability shall be true and effective.”
Further to this, all random draw results must be listed for public access and for “government inquiry”.
“The record must be kept for more than 90 days. When publishing the random draw results, some measures should be taken place to protect user privacy,” the new policy states.
The draw rates are required to be published in English. However, nothing is stopping crafty gamers from accessing and translating the information for wide circulation.
There are similar planned changes to random number generators in the gambling sector in Australia, with politicians pushing the pokie slot industry to more obviously list and define the rates at which a profit on a slot machine can be made.
A target is also on video games, with Independent Australian Senator Nick Xenophon saying “insidious” games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) are exploiting children with in-game purchases and third-party gambling sites.
Senator Xenophon plans to table a bill that will redefine gambling in the Interactive Gambling Act to including game.
“This is the Wild West of online gambling that is actually targeting kids,” Senator Xenophon told Fairfax Media.
The new bill could make it illegal for CS:GO developer Valve to solicit payments in exchange for items. Alternatively, there could be age and/or spending restrictions on games that feature in-game economies that encourage users to purchase skins and additional features.
CS:GO currently offers in-game purchases, and features a slot-like process in which players can earn either common inexpensive items, or rare expensive items. These items are then being used by players to bet on competitive eSports matches, a market that is estimated to be worth a staggering $US7.4 billion.