Loot box researcher Leon Xiao found that the rating board warning labels on random loot boxes are applied inconsistently.
Xiao’s latest study analyzed whether the North American ESRB and European PEGI rating systems are consistently applying the “In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items)” tags. The tags were implemented by both groups with essentially identical criteria after government scrutiny of loot boxes.
Separately, Xiao also took a random sample of 100 games on Google Play that were known to have loot boxes and checked whether the comparable IARC tag regarding loot boxes was included along with each game’s rating.
After removing ports, multiple releases of the same game, and titles released in one market but not the other, the study found 66 different games that presumably should have carried the label of random in-game purchases in both the databases and the other. ESRB as PEGI. However, only 26 of those games (39.4%) had the tag on both systems, while 40 games (60.6%) had the tag on one system but not the other.
PEGI appeared to be more active with the label, warning consumers about 35 games with loot boxes that the ESRB did not. On the other hand, there were only 5 games to carry the warning in the ESRB database but not PEGI.
Xiao singled out Genshin Impact as an example, calling it “very unsatisfying” that such a high-profile game that relies on loot boxes doesn’t carry an ESRB random purchase tag.
He noted that PEGI appeared to have retroactively applied the label to some games after it was introduced, while ESRB did not, which may explain some of the inconsistency. But even applying a different methodology to give ESRB the benefit of the doubt, it only managed to be 74.3% consistent with PEGI, with ESRB failing to label 9 games that PEGI did.
Looking at Google Play, Xiao found that only 29% of the 100 random games known to have loot boxes displayed the label. To make sure the developers haven’t removed loot boxes (as has been done recently with titles like Brawl Stars and Mario Kart Tour), Xiao replayed the games to verify that they still contained loot boxes; they all did.
Xiao suggested that ESRB and PEGI, along with the German rating board USK, collaborate in the future, applying loot box tags to all games that each other has tagged (particularly older games that PEGI applied a loot box tag to). label retroactively).
“A centralized resource should also be developed – if a rating system decides to tag a historical game, or indeed a new game that contains loot boxes, that decision should be communicated to others to ensure consistency across the various rating systems.” , said.
“Such cooperation can act as a safeguard to verify each other’s errors and omissions and improve the accuracy of the labeling process.”