The ESRB began adding “Interactive Element” tags to games in April 2018. This label notably denoted titles featuring in-game purchases and other online features that didn’t affect a game’s rating. Now the ratings board is further expanding transparency measures with another Interactive Element marker, “In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items).”
A post on the ESRB’s website explains the new Interactive Element label will be assigned to titles containing options to purchase digital goods, including premium offerings and in-game currency that players can buy with real money. This was specially designed with randomized items in mind, such as loot boxes, mystery awards, item packs, prize wheels, treasure chests, gacha games, etc. The post additionally notes the In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items) notice will also apply to “other non-randomized paid elements.”
With regards to the initial In-Game Purchases tag, the ESRB explains,
The original In-Game Purchases notice will still be assigned to games that offer any other type of purchase, including additional levels, cosmetic items, DLC, expansions, etc. However, going forward it will not be assigned to games with “loot boxes” or similar mechanics to ensure consumers clearly understand when the game offers purchases with randomized elements.
These measures serve as a response to game enthusiasts and consumers asking the ESRB for further transparency following the addition of the original In-Game Purchases notice. In many respects, this also covers why the ESRB doesn’t simply assign a “Loot Boxes” label to certain games. As the post explains, loot box is a “term that doesn’t encompass all types of randomized in-game purchase mechanics.” Naturally, the governing body also has to consider that not everyone who purchases games is familiar with the terminology.
The ESRB and PEGI (ratings boards for the US and EU respectively) are currently both working from home amid the pandemic, but have said that there shouldn’t be any delays in ratings assessments for new games being made.