Physical video games with in-game purchases will now need to be labelled as such under new changes to the Australian Classification system. The new labels will appear on boxed copies of games, with the phrasing “in-game purchases” added to ratings label for games housing any kind of microtransaction-based system. Notably, these labels will be attached to a number of upcoming titles including The Avengers and FIFA 21.
This new addition to the ratings system was first spotted by Reddit user BeforeJam, who noted the labelling changes had yet to be officially announced or confirmed by the Australian Classification Board. While not formally announced, these “in-game purchase” rating labels can already be seen on the public Classifications website.
The change comes after ongoing, global backlash against microtransactions including multiple government-led inquiries as well as a recent report for the NSW Government Responsible Gambling Fund identifying a key link between a desire to purchase loot boxes and developing a problem gambling habit.
Loot boxes have, in the past, been labelled ‘predatory’, ‘problematic’ and ‘harmful’ for their relation to gambling and for exposing young children to addictive reward-based systems. As highlighted in the CQUniversity report to the NSW Government, a strong link between current use of loot boxes and current gambling existed, with young people acknowledging and internalising their addictive nature. The prevalence of loot boxes in gaming means adolescents and young adults are more likely to be exposed to harmful gambling habits from an earlier age.
The new labels are an attempt to steer away from these habits, as well as alert parents of the content they’re purchasing for their kids.
Here’s what they’ll look like:
While most microtransactions in games are purely cosmetic, they are designed to be highly addictive and actively encourage larger purchases. With AAA video games increasingly needing bigger budgets to keep games running (and with microtransactions being incredibly profitable), it’s likely they’ll be a part of video games long into the future. They’re something we’ll have to live with.
These new classification labels will go a long way towards curbing gambling behaviours in young people while highlighting the exact contents and nature of games being purchased. Whether the Australian Government will take further steps towards reducing the appeal of microtransactions in games is currently unknown.
Look out for the new labels when you next head out to buy the latest games.
Update 19/08 12:40pm: The Australian Classification Board have clarified to Kotaku Australia this change came into place in August 2019. It means all future applicants applying for classification will need to disclose details on whether their game contains in-game purchases and what exactly this consists of (such as purchase of credits, objects, randomised content and transacting real world money).