In China, a new law is being introduced on the 1st of May 2017 which will force game developers who make games feature boxes to reveal the chances of getting each item so that consumers can make informed purchase decisions. Loot boxes or crates for those who are unaware feature in games such as League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. Such boxes have gained popularity in recent years with a growing trend toward their inclusion due to the frequency of purchase by customers and them being very profitable for the developers and publishers. Boxes are either dropped in the game or are bought for a fee and keys are then used to open those boxes. Keys are bought from a store or marketplace. The boxes feature contents which the purchaser then has a chance of obtaining but no guarantees they will get the item they want.
At present, the overwhelming majority of games that feature loot boxes or crates do not disclose drop rates however there are a few exceptions such as Robocraft. Often at best games may disclose what some or all of the contents may be but not the chance of getting those items. This has lead to the rise of websites which have collated data on box drops to roughly approximate the statistical odds of getting certain items so customers can make an informed decision as to whether to take the risk of buying crates. China looks to change this and may set precedence when it comes to enforcing change on developers. The new law states (according to a translated version by NeoGAF poster Chillybright, http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1323027&page=1) that developers must;
- 2.6 ... Online game publishers shall promptly publicly announce information about the name, property, content, quantity, and draw/forge probability of all virtual items and services that can be drawn/forge on the official website or a dedicated draw probability web page of the game. The information on draw probability shall be true and effective.
- 2.7 Online game publishers shall publicly announce the random draw results by customers on notable places of official website or in the game, and keep record for government inquiry. The record must be kept for more than 90 days. When publishing the random draw results, some measures should be taken place to protect user privacy.
These changes are not to be taken lightly either as the Chinese Ministry of Culture has already recently spot-checked hundreds of companies selling products within the Chinese gaming market to ensure they comply with existing laws. These checks would only expand and further intensify with the introduction of the new loot box laws and could carry hefty penalties for those who fail to comply. In doing this China may bring about drastic change not only in their country with developers having to comply, remove loot boxes or leave the China market. The latter of the two options being highly unlikely for the overwhelming majority of publishers and developers due to the value of the Chinese market. Given that loot crates and skins, markets have been in controversy for the past few years anyway it would not surprise me if we soon see changes in loot box disclosure in other countries as well or developers simply setting global drop rates and disclosing them to everyone to remain compliant in China and keep consumers happy.