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Gaming

Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony agree to show you loot box odds

Will this really stop anybody wasting their money?

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Loot boxes are a prominent feature of popular online games such as Epic Games' Fortnite.

Epic Games

The big three video game console manufacturers have taken the first step in making loot boxes more transparent for gamers. Soon, players will see exactly what the odds are to get certain digital items before they hit the buy button. 

Michael Warnecke, the Entertainment Software Association's chief counsel of tech policy, said Wednesday that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo committed to new policies requiring video games to disclose the probability of receiving a certain item in the loot box. The announcement came during a US Federal Trade Commission workshop called "Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes."

The FTC defines loot boxes as "in-game rewards that contain random assortment of virtual items to assist a player in advancing in the online game or to customize his or her game avatar." They're a common feature in popular, free-to-play online games such as Fortnite and Apex Legends.

Microsoft said in a separate statement that it will require odds disclosures starting next year. 

"We believe in transparency with customers and providing them information for making their purchase decisions. This is why by 2020 all-new apps or games offering loot boxes or other mechanisms on Microsoft platforms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose to customers, prior to purchase, the odds of receiving each item," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email Wednesday. 

The ESA says Nintendo and Sony will also look to add this policy in 2020. 

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The practice of selling loot boxes received major attention in the US with the release of Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017. This past May, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, introduced legislation to ban loot boxes. His bill has since received bipartisan support

Nintendo and Sony didn't immediately reply to requests for additional comment.