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European ratings agency adopts in-game purchase label

Content descriptor must now appear on physical game cases

Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot crate
Loot crates in the launch version of Star Wars Battlefront 2
EA DICE, Motive Studios, Criterion Games/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

PEGI, the video games rating board for Europe, will now require a label on the display cases of video games that feature in-game purchases.

The ratings agency already required a content descriptor for in-game purchases on games sold online. The move to physical version labeling follows the decision by North America’s ESRB to label in-app purchase systems back in February. That decision responded to the outcry over loot boxes or loot crate systems, whose original form in Star Wars Battlefront 2 caused the most controversy.

“Purchase offers within games has become a broad phenomenon, and it is necessary to provide the same level of consumer information on both physical and digital releases,” Simon Little, PEGI’s managing director, said in a statement. “Considering that physical releases are an important part of the market, this was an important gap to fill.”

Lawmakers and regulators in Europe, New Zealand, the United States and elsewhere responded by examining whether loot crates constituted a form of gambling, or proposing legislation that would restrict the sale of games with in-game purchases.

In April, Belgium’s Gaming Commission determined that the loot boxes sold in Overwatch were a form of gambling. Blizzard disagreed with that interpretation but still pulled loot boxes from real-money sale in that game and Heroes of the Storm.

Likewise, an update to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in July prevented players in Belgium and the Netherlands from opening containers to comply with the law in those nations. Likewise, EA Sports’ FIFA franchise, which has offered random items in virtual card packs through its Ultimate Team mode for more than a decade, is now disclosing pack odds before players acquire them. EA Sports, to Eurogamer, called this a voluntary decision undertaken across the company.