Apart from the announcement that the ESRB will be remotely working due to COVID-19, it also announced earlier today that it will be introducing a new description that will essentially specify if games have loot boxes or other randomized paid elements. Instead of the current “In-game Purchases” description, games with loot boxes or similar mechanics will now have “In-game Purchases (Includes Random Items)” in the description.
The reason why it went for “random items,” rather than “loot boxes,” is because loot boxes don’t fully encompass mechanics where you obtain random items in exchange for real world money. These include gacha games, item or card packs, and prize wheels. Additionally, although the outcry against loot boxes which led to this addition was instigated by gaming enthusiasts, it chose a more generic name so that all consumers, including parents, will also understand the meaning of the feature.
With the introduction of this new Interactive Element, the original “In-game Purchases” tag will purely be used to mean other purchasable content, such as DLC, expansions, cosmetics, and the like. By adding a more specific descriptor for different types of in-game purchases, people who buy games will be able to make more informed purchases.
The new description will be given to games that are being rated as of April 13, 2020.