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New video game label required for in-game purchases

The label will warn of any video game element that needs to be bought with real-world currency.

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New labels could help parents and families against the unexpected high costs of in-game purchases.
Sergei Fadeichev/Getty

If you have played a video game made recently, it is likely you've come across an in-game offer to pay for a bonus level or an extra life. These in-game purchases can include season passes, game upgrades, skins, music, mystery awards and virtual coins.

One issue with in-game purchases is that the costs can add up quickly. In 2014, Apple was forced to refund $32.5 million to customers because the company failed to require consent before charging for in-app purchases.

Both Google and Apple have since added warnings for games and apps that have in-app purchases.

On Tuesday, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) sought to address in-game purchases for physical video games. The organization announced that it would require any physical video game sold with in-game purchases to be labeled. Specifically, the warning will apply to anything digital bought with real-world currency within a game.

"With the new In-Game Purchases interactive element coming to physical games, parents will know when a game contains offers for players to purchase additional content," said said ESRB president Patricia Vance. "Moreover, we will be expanding our efforts to educate parents about the controls currently at their disposal to manage in-game spending before their kids press 'Start'."

The ESRB is a nonprofit organization that assigns age and content ratings to video games and mobile apps. In addition to the in-game purchases label, the ESRB is launching a parental tools website to help educate families about how to manage games with in-game purchases and other interactive elements.