Games in Time – The ESRB Labels Lootboxes


It’s your video game industry news update for March 1st, 2018 – The ESRB decides that a package label is the best way to handle lootboxes, the free PlayStation Plus games for March 2018, and Nintendo may not revise the Switch hardware. The video game industry changes every day and your time is important. Let’s get you caught up, starting right now, on Games in Time!


ESRB Adds “In-Game Purchases” Label

After months of lootbox controversies, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board announced that it will add an “In-Game Purchases” label to titles that allow consumers to pay real money for digital goods. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, it comes across as a weak measure to those that are critical of the industry’s recent monetization practices. That’s because according to the ESRB’s press release, this label will apply to “bonus levels, skins, surprise items (such as item packs, loot boxes, mystery awards), music, virtual coins and other forms of in-game currency, subscriptions, season passes and upgrades (e.g., to disable ads).” As long as players can use an in-game menu to pay real money, the game would get this label distinction. While the ESRB is also trying to educate parents on the issue, their messaging is that “parents need simple information” and that “parents are not differentiating between these different mechanics.”

If you ask me, when you pair this with October 2017’s statement that the ESRB doesn’t find lootboxes to be gambling, it becomes entirely clear that the gaming governing body is putting publisher profits above all else. After all, when you put lootboxes in the same category as content like bonus levels and season passes, all sense of nuance is lost. As far as parental education goes, I’d say the most important thing to teach is to at least be aware of the media that one’s own children are consuming. Though, you would think that also being aware of bank account activity is a given, so children maybe shouldn’t have free reign of a credit card. Just something to think about, at least.

PlayStation Plus Games for March 2018

Sony has announced the free games that will be available to PlayStation Plus subscribers during March 2018. On PlayStation 4, it may be the strongest lineup ever provided, with Bloodborne and Ratchet & Clank. The Legend of Kay will be available on PS3, as will Mighty No. 9 on PS3 and PS4. PlayStation Vita games with PS4 cross-buy include Claire: Extended Cut and Bombing Busters.

Additionally, Sony announced that starting in March 2019, PS3 and Vita titles will no longer be offered as monthly free games through PS Plus, though players will still be able to download the games that they have already acquired. A Sony representative told Polygon that this will bring the monthly PS Plus offerings to only two PS4 games, though if you ask me, I’d wait to see how services from the competition take off – like Xbox Game Pass – before setting that in stone next year.

Nintendo Holding Off on Switch 2.0

The Wall Street Journal reports that sources familiar with Nintendo’s plans for the Switch state that the company is looking towards peripherals to increase console sales, instead of revising the hardware itself. Certainly, Nintendo Labo would be the first indication of this type of strategy. The same sources claim that Nintendo’s hardware focuses for this year include network features, peripherals that use the USB-C port, and manufacturing and shipping improvements. Ultimately, I think holding off on Switch 2.0 only holds true if Nintendo continues to see Switch as a console first. Wii Mini aside, Nintendo consoles usually take this peripheral expansion approach, while it’s the handhelds that go through revisions. If Switch starts to be considered as a handheld internally, you should expect this strategy to shift. That being said, it is also dependent on how long Nintendo expects the Switch platform to stay on the market.


  • In an early cutscene during Metal Gear Survive, a sheet of paper shows the names of former Wandering Soldiers from The Phantom Pain arranged in a way that says KJP FOREVER, seen as a nod to Kojima Productions. Additionally, Bastard Yota and Cunning Yuji could reference Survive’s director Yota Tsutsumizaki and producer Yuji Korekado.
  • For a brief period of time, SEGA accidentally released the full version of Yakuza 6: The Song of Life to PS4 players in North America, instead of the game’s demo. This calls into question why the game was delayed to April 17th, instead of its original date of March 20th, if the full game is ready to go.
  • Chrono Trigger was released on PC in surprising fashion this week, although fans were quick to discover that it was the same port as the game’s updated iOS and Android version. To this day, the DS version is widely seen as the best way to play this classic.
  • The gadget-paladin support hero Brigitte has been revealed as the next playable character in Overwatch. She is Torbjorn’s daughter in the game’s canon and she is available to try now in Overwatch’s PC public test realm.
  • PS4 exclusive Detroit: Become Human has officially announced its release date as May 25th. The revealed box art, unfortunately, could be a whole lot better.
  • VentureBeat is reporting that this year’s Battlefield installment will be titled Battlefield V and will take the series from World War I to World War II. Call of Duty, which explored World War II last year, is already rumored to have this year’s Treyarch installment be Black Ops 4.
  • The White House stated that Donald Trump will meet with members of the video game industry next week as part of the ongoing debate on school safety. However, the Entertainment Software Association claims that they and their member companies have not been contacted about this. In case you have forgotten, video games are a protected form of free speech in the United States, thanks to a Supreme Court decision from 2011.
  • And finally, here are your recent notable game releases:
    • Moss is out now on PlayStation VR
    • Payday 2 is out now on Nintendo Switch
    • Bridge Constructor: Portal is out now on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch and today on PS4
    • Turok and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil are out on Friday, March 2nd on Xbox One

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Peter Spezia

Editor-in-Chief at Rhymes With Asia
Speaking into a microphone about nerd culture is a passion project for Peter Spezia, formerly known as SMYNYouko. Peter has been an Internet broadcaster since 2007, with past shows including Show Me Your News and WTF, Pokémon. His latest ventures include hosting The PowerSwitch - gaming's call-in talk radio show - and writing for A University of Michigan alum, Peter lives in the Great Lakes State with his wife Rachel as he works in video production for FCA US LLC. When he isn't keeping track of the latest video game industry news, Peter is either playing the guitar or staying fit.