The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) will reportedly begin labelling games which feature in-game purchases, commonly referred to as 'Loot Boxes,' in light of recent scandal regarding the practice.

In-game purchases, also known as microtransactions have become an increasingly popular method for developers to increase profits from video games. However, in recent years, this has caused controversy for the manner in which such purchases allow players to gain a perceived advantage over others during online play, block players from accessing content, and suggestions that randomised loot boxes are almost a form of gambling.

The ESRB, a self-regulatory organization responsible for providing age ratings for games released in the United States, released a statement about in-game purchases on their Twitter account today. Its purpose is to inform consumers ahead of time that the games in question "offer the ability to purchase digital goods or premiums with real-world currency.' This includes everything from downloadable content (DLC) to bonus costumes, soundtracks, weapons and season passes. The label will appear on both physical copies of games and digital storefronts where they are available for download.

In the tweet, the board also announced the launch of ParentalTools.org, designed to raise awareness of the practice and tools to stop children accidentally spending money on in-app or game purchases.

What's the big deal?

EA have recently come under fire for the use of in-game purchases in 'Star Wars Battlefront Ii.' Unlike the first game, developers DICE claimed that the highly-anticipated title would provude free updates for players.

When the game came out, however, players were dismayed to find that the game's online multiplayer would involve paid loot boxes to unlock certain characters, maps, and to progress further through the online rankings. EA had previously been criticized for such practices with the Ultimate Teams in their 'FIFA' soccer titles.

Microtransactions were briefly removed from the game [VIDEO], but a broader discussion about in-game purchases and their similarities to gambling continues. The element of random chance, where players pay real-world currency but do not know what content they will unlock in each box, has had some speculating about the legal status of such systems. Senator Maggie Hassan said in an open letter to the ESRB that "the prevalence of in-game microtransactions, often referred to as ‘loot boxes,’ raises several concerns surrounding the use of psychological principles and enticing mechanics that closely mirror those often found in casinos and games of chance."

The real controversy comes from players feeling like they're being ripped off.

After paying for a title, they expect to have access to the game's full features, rosters of playable characters, game modes and maps. Finding out that they have to shell out more in microtransactions is frustrating, and many have vocalised their criticism [VIDEO] of the practice. Whether the industry listens remains to be seen, but the ESRB's new initiative appears to be a win in the consumer rights column.