China wants to limit the number of loot boxes players can buy
Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all support revealing loot box odds, but now China is demanding to know exact drop rates too
Although loot boxes are popular in China, which has demanded the disclosure of loot box odds since 2017, the country is now looking to clamp down.
This is the subtle difference between simply revealing the odds of getting an item for the whole game and ensuring an exact drop rate for any given item.
This helps maintain an element of surprise since there’s still the luck of the draw for any given loot box. The hope for groups like the ESA is that revealing the low odds of winning, say, a legendary Mercy skin in Overwatch will ensure players exercise restraint instead of mindlessly buying loot boxes.
By demanding to know the exact drop rate of virtual items, though, Chinese regulators are mandating that anything with a 10% chance of appearing actually does so one out of every ten times.
“This requirement is also crucial for the authorities to closely monitor loot boxes and the algorithms that power them,” Zhu said, “because even if a game said that an item has a 20% drop rate on paper, it could still secretly have just 1% in actuality. It’s extremely hard for the government to check.”
So how is an exact drop rate ensured? In practice, the drop rates of rare items are now required to go up in a player’s favor with each new loot box opened.
The industry will probably watch closely how China enforces these new regulations. Since the loot box regulations introduced in 2017, companies have already started coming up with workarounds. The long history of loot boxes in the country also means it could be hard to clamp down on.
It wasn’t until more recently that the loot box concept started making its way into games for Western audiences. This came with the rise of online multiplayer games like Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront II and Apex Legends.
It was then that game developers started to react.
For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.