Apple cracks down on loot boxes, forces developers to show odds

Posted December 22, 2017

The topic of microtransactions and loot boxes is highly controversial in the gaming industry right now and the inclusion of them in triple-A games has seen quite a backlash from gamers. What started as a way to help fund free to play games or add a unique mode to sports games (like Fifa's Ultimate Team mode) has seeped into almost every release, large or small.

Different groups are now scrambling to determine what to do with loot boxes.

In November, for example, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 came under unexpected fire for its use of loot boxes.

In the ongoing saga of loot boxes, Apple has just taken a stance not taken by many platform holders. Some, if not most, games are designed so that you cannot pick up these items separately - you can only get them in loot boxes.

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The change states that all games must disclose odds related to items earned from so-called "loot boxes" - a mechanism for rewarding players with valuable in-game items. Apple's guidelines were meant to reduce the number of low-quality apps and "spam" apps that provide little functionality for users, but the hardline approach banning template apps outright ended up affecting a wider market of small businesses and non-profit organizations that relied on third-party app development houses to gain a legitimate presence on the App Store.

Recent controversy over loot boxes and in-game purchases appear to have prompted Apple to update the review guidelines for the App Store.

Apple announced a sweeping revision to the guidelines for its App Store yesterday, which now includes a provision that loot boxes must be transparent about their odds. It does seem odd that we have reached a point where games flaunt "No in-app purchases!" as a selling point, but here we are.