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Apple has updated their policies for premium loot boxes being made available in mobile apps sold or free for download through the iTunes App Store. The update is a new enforcement that makes it so developers will have to make disclosures about how they're using their loot boxes in their games.
You'll find the new clause for their terms of service in the developers section of their app guidelines [via Polygon], where in section 3.1.1 under the In-App Purchase section, there's a part where it discusses the offering of loot boxes or "other mechanisms" that provide players with randomized rewards or items that are acquired through premium monetary transactions. It states that developers must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item that is available within the loot box itself, prior to a customer paying for the acquisition of the loot box.
In other words, before anyone puts any money down on a random loot box located within a mobile app, there must be a clear indicator on the screen informing the customer about their chances and odds of getting a hold of the item they want.
This isn't the first time a regulation like this was enforced on the gaming industry. Over in Mainland China the Ministry of Culture also enforced an identical rule, but instead of limiting it to mobile game developers, the rule was applied to all apps, both mobile and on larger gaming platforms such as PC and home consoles.
The China rule dictated that games sold or made available in China from foreign or domestic studios must disclose the odds of acquiring items from a premium loot box. Gamers found out about the news after the Chinese version of Overwatch was updated and it was discovered that when going to purchase the loot box it had a percentage rate of possibly acquiring the different tiers of loot.
Electronic Arts tried to pull a fast one by having an identical system in Star Wars: Battlefront II, but instead of just offering cosmetic items like in Overwatch, EA took things a step further by having it set up where gamers could purchase upgrades through the system and make their particular character class stronger. This essentially meant that the game afforded pay-to-win opportunities for players.
The backlash was extreme enough that parents took their issues with the premium loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II to the social media doorstep of Disney, accusing EA of attempting to get kids hooked on gambling. This resulted in EA pulling the microtransaction system from the game, but the damage was already done and many casual members of the general public took the issue to local lawmakers and gambling commissions.
Some state representatives have announced that there will be legislation to address the premium loot boxes in AAA games in 2018. No timetable has been set yet as to when we can expect the issue to be addressed, but it appears Apple is already taking measures into its own hands to avoid getting caught up in the potential explosive government oversight that could come down hard on the gaming industry.
Google Play has yet to update its service, but, if this picks up enough traction, expect Google to join in on the fray.