Yesterday, the ABC and Four Corners unveiled their investigation into the video games industry, squarely targeting microtransactions and loot boxes in particular. But the production of any lengthy report is always going to leave out some context and detail, and this morning the representatives of the local games industry have tried to address that.
The Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA), which represents game publishers and the wider games industry in Canberra, posted a five paragraph statement on their website this morning. Their CEO Ron Curry was the only representative of the games industry in the Four Corners report and website article, although the full video included footage and an interview from former mobile developer Torulf Jernström, the developer famous for the Let’s Go Whaling presentation on microtransactions.
In IGEA’s response, the group claimed the Four Corners story provided “unbalanced” views and implications, and wasn’t reflective of the positive experience millions of Australians have with video games today. It also said “all major platforms” have controls to limit spending and games’ access to payment systems, including the ability to disable in-game purchases entirely.
Interestingly, the statement also noted that the video game industry has started to disclose the drop rates for “probabilities of randomised items in games” — although that doesn’t really highlight the fact that China’s regulators led the way for this change five years ago, and it’s only in recent years that drop rates have become more open as regulators have pushed for more oversight.
The full statement from IGEA is below.
For decades, video games have been an incredibly popular and enjoyable pastime for those who play them, including two-thirds of all Australians. The implications and assumptions about games made in the “Four Corners” piece last night are unbalanced and not reflective of the overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable experience the majority of players have when engaging with the many different kinds of games available today.
Through our Digital Australia research series, Australians have told us how video games help their wellbeing. During COVID-19 in particular, people have increasingly turned to video games to stay connected to their family and friends, to keep their minds occupied, to relieve stress, to stay active, to find new ways to learn, and to cope with isolation. Many people have played video games for the first time during COVID-19 and experienced the positive effects that games can have on their lives.
We are committed to being a responsible industry, and all of us take seriously the role we have to play in mitigating any risk to children, vulnerable people, and players. Our members want players to be in control of the experience they are having, and to be able to make informed choices about the games they play, how they play them, how much (and whether) they spend, and how much time they choose to play.
All major platforms have controls to limit spending and access to credit cards, including the ability to turn off in-game spending entirely. All major app stores further provide specific consumer advice to indicate if a game or app offers in-game spending. There are also games that provide specific tools for players to monitor or limit game play and in-game spending, while some developers have published specific design principles around the use of in-game spending. The global video games industry has recently taken additional steps to provide transparency through the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of randomised items in games (also called ‘drop rates’).
There are a vast range of tools and settings available in games and on platforms to help players and their parents and carers monitor their game play. We encourage all players, parents and carers to become familiar with these tools.
If you want to view the Four Corners episode for yourself, a YouTube version of the show is available below.