Developers must disclose loot box odds following update to App Store guidelines

Change to guidelines comes amidst ongoing debate as to whether loot boxes constitute gambling

Following an update to Apple's guidelines, all software sold through the App Store must now disclose the odds connected to loot boxes.

In Section 3.1.1 of the App Store Review Guidelines, Apple states the following: "Apps offering 'loot boxes' or other mechanisms that provide randomised virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase."

This change brings the App Store more in-line with laws in some Asian countries where loot boxes, known as gacha mechanics, must be presented with transparent odds.

There is currently no word as to what prompted the move - though the Star Wars Battlefront II debacle seems like the most obvious motivation - or if Apple will retroactively apply this rule to already published games.

While consumers have taken umbrage with loot boxes over recent months for a plethora of reasons, transparency has remained a persistent concern and one which Apple's move should address.

The news comes amidst an ongoing furore as to whether loot boxes constitute gambling with everyone from the ESRB and PEGI, through to Hawaiian state representatives and the Belgian Gambling Commission, diving in and coming to wildly different conclusions.

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Latest comments (5)

Ursula M. Brand Online Services Administrator, Community, EA4 years ago
As Apple had a lot of issues with their services in China, could that just be their way of making sure that apps are compliant with this legal requirement for China? You need to publish the odds for loot boxes for games in China for almost a year now.
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Benjamin Hoyt Founder & CEO, 47 Games, Inc.4 years ago
Am I incorrect in reading this rule, or would "other mechanisms that provide randomised virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase," also include TCGs, like Hearthstone?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase
The elephant in the room is the word "type" and the role it can have in keeping loot systems highly obfuscated.

A publisher could say "pack contains one rare type item, three uncommon type items and 12 common type items". You could argue that he is as transparent as required by the wording of the rule and invoke all the trading card comparisons in the world. Which is, of course, not that honest, since when people trade rare trading cards of current collections, they trade them very close to 1:1, while online games will have you destroy 10 cards and more for enough resources to craft (i.e. buy) the desired card. That is where the ripoff really happens and why real trading cards can expect to get a pass, whereas their virtual counterparts can not.

Similarly, a publisher selling weapon packs could still say "one rocket launcher guaranteed", while not saying anything about the odds of the rocket launcher people want, compared to the rocket launchers found in 99/100 packs.

Imo, "type of" needs to be dropped, if the goal is real transparency. Until then, those are but two issues and that is before we get into Apple's history of really enforcing rules. This is not what change looks like, this is the Jedi mind trick among fig leaves.
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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
Kind of interesting that government legislation doesn't need to decide whether its fixed odds betting or not, when major platform holders can decide.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
For edification, here’s how the collector card market has been doing it for years

Keep in mind many of these are autograph cards and other things that are going to be super limited no matter what.
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