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Apple Now Requires Developers to List Odds for Loot Boxes

Change could impact a massive money-maker for Apple

Credit: Chesnot/Getty Images

Sometime this week, Apple changed the guidelines for applications and games sold through iTunes to include a requirement that developers now disclose the odds connected to loot boxes in apps.

Listed as a new bullet item under In-App Purchases on Apple's official App Store Review Guidelines, the requirement reads: "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." The bullet item wasn't in the guidelines on December 18th, according to the Internet Archive.

The guidelines are a laundry list of requirements - addressing everything from objectionable content to privacy, clones and payments - which are used to determine if an app will be accepted and sold on iTunes by Apple.

We've reached out to Apple for comment on what spurred the change and if there will be a requirement to go back and add odds to already published games that have loot box-like items in them.

The change comes as politicians in Hawaii and a few other states weigh the possible need for legislation addressing the use of loot boxes in games and whether loot boxes should be considered a form of gambling.

The popularity and importance of in-app purchases in Apple and Android games can't be overstated. In 2014, one analyst group estimated that freemium games and their in-game microtransactions made up 92 % of all Apple Store revenue and 98 % of all Google Play revenue in 2013.

The growing use of loot boxes in games in console and PC titles captured national attention recently after a patent filing by Activision was unearthed by Glixel, and when players revolted against EA's use of the system in Sar Wars: Battlefront II.

Gamers were alarmed to read about a patent filed by Activision that seemed designed to tweak gameplay and the way players were paired up to try and get people to spend more money on those items. Activision later said the tech isn’t being used in any current games, but it raised some legitimate questions about how far a developer and publisher will go to squeeze out more profit from a released game.

Electronic Arts learned just how careful a company has to be in the way it uses microtransactions with the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II. While the game sells as a full-priced retail title, it was originally set to have a microtransaction system that asked players to invest extra time or money to unlock major playable heroes. The outcry, which resulted in the most downvoted comment (by EA) in the history of Reddit, led the company to temporarily pull the microtransaction system on the eve of the game's launch. It remains unclear what form those transactions will take when they return to the game. It also led to comments from both LucasFilm and Disney, seemingly condemning EA’s approach to microtransactions in the game.