The review aggregation website OpenCritic announced today that games with loot box mechanics will now include a warning at the top of their OpenCritic page pointing that out.
On Overwatch’s OpenCritic page, for example, there’s now a bolded section highlighted in orange right below the aggregated scores that reads: “Please note: This game has monetized random reward mechanics, commonly referred to as ‘loot boxes.’” It goes on, calling loot boxes similar to gambling and pointing out that they are being investigated by regulatory agencies in Belgium and the Netherlands.
OpenCritic’s CEO, Matthew Enthoven, told Kotaku in an email that a total of 42 games currently have the warning, including Respawn Entertainment’s newly released battle royale game, Apex Legends. “We weren’t able to find a programmatic way to identify all games with loot boxes, so I’m sure we’ve missed some,” he said. “We’re hoping the community will let us know when that happens.”
Enthoven and the rest of the people behind the site didn’t mince words about why they added the warnings. “The OpenCritic team believes that loot boxes are a net-negative for the video game industry,” it stated in a blog post today announcing the move. “Loot boxes prey on human’s generally poor ability to accurately understand and internalize probabilities, especially at the extremes. Rather than offer in-game items directly, loot boxes are used to mask the underlying cost of extremely attractive items.”
OpenCritic was formed in 2015 as a competitor to Metacritic with a goal of being more transparent about how it calculated its aggregated scores. Metacritic currently doesn’t flag games that have loot box mechanics. On the issue of how it decides which games to assign the loot box warnings, OpenCritic listed three criteria that must be present:
- Unknown, Random Rewards. Users do not know what item they’ll receive prior to purchase. Instead, users are purchasing a chance to receive one item from a set of items.
- Monetized. Users are able to purchase the roll with real money, either directly or through an intermediary currency.
- Encouraged Use. Users are encouraged to acquire and consume the loot box during the course of normal gameplay or game systems.
The site tweeted in October 2017 that it planned to “take a stand against loot boxes,” back around the time the issue of monetized gambling in games was being widely debated following the release of games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA2K18. The release of Star Wars: Battlefront II a month later pushed the topic into a national spotlight, leading some state and Congressional legislators to weigh in on the issue. In the year since, Belgium’s government has forced the removal of loot boxes from games including FIFA 19 and Overwatch in its country, while many games that still have them in the United States now disclose their odds. Notably, the OpenCritic pages for Battlefront II and Shadow of War do not include the new warnings since loot boxes were eventually removed from both games following the public backlash against them.
“It’s our mission to help gamers make informed decisions when considering a purchase or download,” writes the site. “We feel that informing consumers about the presence of loot boxes is a key part of our mission.”
Below is the full list of games OpenCritic has currently flagged for including loot boxes:
- Apex Legends
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III
- Call of Duty: WWII
- Destiny 2
- FIFA series
- Gears of War 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Heroes of the Storm
- Injustice 2
- Madden series
- NBA 2K series
- Need for Speed Payback
- PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
- Pro Evolution Soccer series
- Rocket League
- The Elder Scrolls: Legend
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege
- Trials Rising
Correction: an earlier version of this article listed Fortnite as being one of the game flagged by OpenCritic for loot boxes. It is not.