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Apple Takes Action Against iTunes Loot Boxes

The new ‘loot box’ phenomenon, in which players can pay money in the hopes of winning a randomized non-cash prize, has been coming under fire from governments, gaming companies, and customer advocacy organizations alike.

Now, you can add Apple to the growing list of actors either weighing in or taking action to regulate the practice.

One of the world’s largest and most powerful companies has announced that moving forward, it will require any game or application with a loot box component to publish the odds for winning any of the listed prizes.

According to the new guidelines, “apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomized virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.”

Could Cost Apple Tens of Millions

On the one hand, the change is extremely surprising. It’s estimated that as much as 92% of App Store revenues comes from in-game purchases made within ‘freemium’ games. Loot boxes no doubt are a huge part of that revenue stream, and anything that could discourage players from buying them comes with a serious risk of hitting Apple hard in the wallet.

However, it’s also true that the longer the controversy surrounding loot boxes goes on without an industry consensus on how to handle them — specifically the potential risk their online casino like mechanics might pose to children — the longer companies run the risk of governments taking action themselves via regulation.

Will Loot Boxes Ultimately Be Banned?

Adding to the specter of regulation is the fact that there isn’t even any consensus opinion on the proper way to handle loot boxes within the gaming community itself. Controversy after controversy has broken in recent months about how developers are harnessing their potentially addictive potential to get players to spend increasing amounts of money.

Until everyone can come to an agreement on what should or should not be permissible, expect to see the rules constantly changing as more and more companies like Apple try to strike a balance themselves – before governments start doing it for them.

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