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PEGI adds in-game purchase warning to boxed games

Descriptor will be added to physical releases by the end of the year

European games ratings board PEGI has announced it will add warnings about in-game purchases to boxed games in the coming months.

A new descriptor, pictured below, will be included in the information on the box of any title that offers the possibility of further spending after purchases - for example, on booster items or loot boxes.

PEGI notes it already uses such a descriptor for digital-only games via the IARC (International Age Rating Coalition) system, but will now ensure these also appear on the packaging of physical releases. This is expected to come into effect by the end of the year.

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It's a move that follows last year's controversy over loot boxes and other titles that gave players the option to spend real money on random virtual items - a trend that has since prompted authorities to question whether such mechanics constitute gambling.

Most recently, Belgium and the Netherlands have been taking a firm stance on this, leading to the removal of in-game purchases from key titles such as NBA 2K, Overwatch and Counter-Strike.

"Purchase offers within games has become a broad phenomenon, and it is necessary to provide the same level of consumer information on both physical and digital releases," says PEGI managing director Simon Little. "Considering that physical releases are an important part of the market, this was an important gap to fill.

"For a parent who may not be fully familiar with the video games landscape, seeing this simple descriptor on the packaging of a game they consider buying should trigger the reflex of keeping an eye on the gameplay, once the game has been purchased and given to the child. It's basic information, but that's what parents sometimes feel they are lacking."

The PEGI announcement cites an Ipsos consumer survey that suggests the amount of children investing without parents' knowledge may not be as dire as the industry's critics think. Only 40 per cent of parents to game-playing children said their youngsters spend money in-game, and over 80 per cent have an agreement in place about this spending.

Only two per cent of parents do not monitor their children's spending.

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