China has become the first country in the world to pass regulations against in-game loot boxes.
In-game loot boxes are regarded with much negativity. Many commentators see loot boxes as a form of online gambling as users put their money on the line to randomly receive a number of different items. Numerous franchise have adopted them as a form of microtransaction system. Battlefield, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Uncharted, Destiny, The Division, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike Go are some prominent examples. The worst part is that players have no idea how likely they are to get an item they desire. Well, in comes China.
China has passed a series of regulations (translated by Neogaf user chillybright) that takes aim at in-game loot boxes. Starting May 1, 2017, video game publishers must publicly announce the draw probability for every item offered in a loot box. Furthermore, publishers must announce draw results by its customers, and keep a record for government inquiry:
2.6 …Online game publishers shall promptly 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.
2.7 Online game publishers shall publicly announce the random draw results by customers on notable places of official website or in game, and keep record 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.
While the regulations are for China only, gamers everywhere will benefit. Games like Overwatch and Hearthstone, which have large playerbases across the world, will now have their draw probabilities revealed. Other games that don’t have a presence in China, like Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Battlefield 1, will not be affected.
This is a big step in the fight to make loot boxes and other RNG practices more consumer friendly. In the United States, Valve and the owners of CSGO are tied up in a lawsuit concerning what constitutes online gambling. There’s potential that, if the case moves forward, loot boxes might be dragged into the conversation. We’ll keep you updated as the lawsuit moves through the courts. We’ll also update you when Blizzard and other publishers begin publishing the draw probability for their games in China.