It was just a matter of time before the ESRB would have to give an excuse as to why the new label system they disclosed on February 27th, 2018 doesn’t properly explain why it doesn’t identify and inform consumers about loot boxes, and here it is. The excuse not only defends the standard microtransaction models, but it muddles the information about premium loot boxes.
If you check the dislike/like ratio for the new ESRB video you’ll find that the dislikes outweighs the like ratio, but the most interesting part is that the ESRB disabled the comment section on the video due to the backlash.
The video once allowed for conversations, which mostly consisted of people calling out the ESRB for doing nothing but making matters worse.
Well, the ESRB, unsurprisingly, came out and tried to ease the complaints coming from the YouTube video and those coming to assess the situation accordingly, and here’s what they had to say via Twitter:
We're getting a lot of questions about our letter to Senator Hassan so you can follow the link to read our response: https://t.co/qJ4qyV3h95
— ESRB (@ESRBRatings) February 27, 2018
Before dabbling into the letter, we see that the ESRB tried plastering their excuse all over their Twitter feed by replying to people with similar responses as seen below:
As we mention, this is just the first step! It's part of a much bigger campaign to make sure parents understand the label and how they can use the the tools available at https://t.co/AmVxVAAFFF. But obviously we'll keep working on this as we get more feedback, so stay tuned. https://t.co/mKdEPvFjJL
— ESRB (@ESRBRatings) February 27, 2018
If you read the responses by the ESRB they’re always about trying to “inform parents” and “trying to find a way” to address the concerns all while not dealing with predatory microtransaction practices. This is further exemplified in a long letter that is linked to in the first tweet above over on esrbstorage.net. The letter addresses the microtransaction controversy by stating the following…
“While I appreciate your position and concerns, given the longevity of loot boxes as an in-game mechanic, there does not appear to be any concrete evidence of “gaming disorders”stemming from loot boxes nor am I aware of any scientific evidence indicating that unlocking loot boxes has any psychological impact on children more specifically. However, I do know that a group of thirty-six academic researchers recently rebutted attempts by the WHO to diagnose a “gaming disorder,” citing alack of credible evidence or conclusive research. Additionally, in investigating the claims set forth in your letter, we did not encounter any loot boxes that specifically target children. Regardless, we will continue to monitor the research in this field, as well as stay abreast of parental concerns, should they arise, about the potential impact loot boxes have on children and help guide parents accordingly.”
The letter continues and reads:
“As you referenced in your letter, there is some debate within the video game community about whether loot boxes constitute gambling. The ESRB has previously stated publicly that we do not consider loot boxes to be gambling for various reasons, nor am I aware of any legal authority in the United States that has classified loot boxes as gambling. In fact, the UK Gambling Commission recently determined that loot boxes do not constitute gambling.”
The letter goes on to say:
“We believe that loot boxes are more comparable to baseball cards, where there is an element of surprise and you always get something. Loot boxes are an optional feature in certain games that provide the player a fun way to acquire virtual items for use within the game itself. Most of the time, these items are cosmetic in nature. They are sometimes earned as an award to the player; other times they can be purchased. But at all times, they are optional. Additionally, there is no way to cash out in the game; the player can only use the item to customize game play experience. Having said that, if parents have a concern about how much time or money their kids are spending playing games, they can activate parental controls to help them manage both.”
The letter doesn’t even address the fact that loot-boxes can be and have been used in predatory ways to psychologically manipulate gamers into buying them. The letter fails on so many levels it’s shameful. A good example of predatory practices is Battlefield 1‘s Desert Gold skin fiasco that slithered its way into the game months after the game’s October launch.
You can read questions that parents and gamers have for the ESRB by hitting up the the Entertainment Software Rating Board Twitter account.