Sony has announced that Shawn Layden, chairman of SIE Worldwide Studios and a mainstay of PlayStation’s E3 press conferences, will be leaving the company. No reason was given for his departure, and a successor has not been named.
Formerly president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America (until Sony’s regions were brought under one roof in 2018), Layden had been with Sony since 1987, serving in roles like vice president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe and president of Sony Computer Entertainment Japan.
Next year, Bandai will be releasing some 2:5 scale models of famous old consoles. They’re nice enough to be sitting on a shelf as is, but what’s really cool about these is that they replicate the machines both outside and in.
The models—and their controllers—pop open to reveal intricate little reproductions of the circuit boards and other internal components.
There’ll be a PlayStation and a Saturn, and both will be released in March 2020.
Did you know there’s gonna be a new MediEvil game? Sony’s been showing it off at events, like the most recent State of Play livestream, but details have been a little scarce. A new limited time demo that came out today offers a sneak peek into the upcoming exclusive action-comedy game. The brief preview shows some of the game’s silly world and characters, but ultimately, it feels a little generic, at least so far.
The original MediEvil released in 1998 for the Sony PlayStation. It tells the story of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a skeleton knight brought back to life in order to fight an evil sorcerer named Zarok. Even though legends paint Daniel as a gallant hero, he’s a bit of a doofus, having died immediately to an arrow in the head during a battle against Zarok. Accidentally revived by one of Zarok’s necromancy spells a century later, he gambols off to defeat the sorcerer. It’s a silly set-up, and Daniel’s grinning antics making for a fun affair. You can yank off your arm to smack zombies in the face and solve rudimentary puzzles. It’s a bit more linear than the action and explorations games that would come after—Spyro, Jak and Daxter—but it’s cut from a similar cloth. The PlayStation 4 version is a remake, and a demo called the Short Lived Demo is currently on the PlayStation Store until October 7th.
Playing the demo earlier today, I found myself sucked into MediEvil’s zany world but underwhelmed by the actual playing. The demo contains the first level of the game, which provides an early sense of the pacing and action. In playing it, I found swords and throw daggers, traipsed about a graveyard picking up collectibles, and opened plenty of locked doors. MedIEvil is a straightforward game, almost entirely linear, except for some occasional branching pathways that soon lead back to the main area again. It feels like an arcade game, a step up from Ghosts and Goblins or Fester’s Quest. In that light, MediEvil as a fun blast from the past. In 2019, it’s got stiffer competition.
The demo lives up to the “short-lived” name, coming and going in about twenty minutes’ time without leaving much of an impression. MediEvil is silly in that way that older games were, with grainy cutscenes and broad voice acting. It’s also stiff and awkward to my modern eyes. I kept asking, “Why are we doing this, and why now?” The demo isn’t deep enough to answer that, although the original wasn’t that deep, either. Cartoony graphics and a classic feel brought a warm tingle of nostalgia, but MediEvil wasn’t all that exciting to play.
It’s neat to see an old classic back from the dead, but MediEvil feels a bit perfunctory. We’ve seen strong remakes in recent years such as Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap or the recent remake of Link’s Awakening that have their own unique flair and build upon the source material. That’s not the case here, at least based on this demo. While it might please fans who loved the original, MediEvil’s demo doesn’t suggest that the game is prepared to meet the challenge of reaching a new, broader audience. Hopefully, the full game will breathe a little more life into this idea.
Sony’s Nintendo Direct-style State Of Play livestream series returned today, with a deep look at The Last of Us II as well as short updates about other games coming to PlayStation, including Civilization 6. Here’s a rundown of the news.
The Last Of Us Part II will be released on February 21, 2020.
A demo of the upcoming remake of the PlayStation 1 game MediEvil is available today. You can get a special item in the full game by playing the demo. Full game’s out next month.
A limited-edition Death Stranding PS4 Pro bundle is coming on November 8 with a cool dripping-handprint design.
Enhance Games and Tha Ltd. are making an intriguing-looking game called Humanity, coming 2020.
Wattam, the next game from Katamari Damacy creator Keita Takahashi, will be released in December.
Arise: A Simple Story, a charming cartoon action adventure game, is “coming soon” to PlayStation 4.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is available now for PlayStation VR. A PSVR sizzle reel showed clips of upcoming games. Espire 1, Stardust Odyssey, After The Fall, and Space Channel 5 Kinda Funky News Flash.
Civilization 6 is coming to PS4 on November 22.
October’s PlayStation Plus lineup will include MLB The Show 19 and The Last of Us Remastered.
Correction 5:05 p.m. ET: The original version of this story read “Civilization 4;” this has been corrected. Kotaku regrets the error.
Take a bag of potato chips—any brand, anywhere—and you more or less know what you’re going to get. Crispy, greasy salt and oil delivered via thin layers of starch, they make a mess of crumbs and grease, and they’re terribly delicious, extremely difficult to stop eating once you’ve caved into the first, and likely to cause a carbohydrate crash and a sense of regret. Potato chips are great and awful and we all know what we’re getting into when we open a bag.
So how would you review one? Do you tell people chips are awful for their health and break down why? Do you get into the ethical practices of various potato chip companies, perhaps? Or do you go all-in on the other end of the spectrum, singing the praises of the perfect snack food, one that isn’t as impressive as other snack foods but also isn’t trying to be gourmet cuisine? I mean, sure, gourmet chips exist, but we all know it’s the snack of the people.
Borderlands 3, Gearbox Software’s return to their most popular franchise, is a bag of potato chips. It’s the series that popularized the loot shooter genre, marrying first-person gunplay with Diablo-style loot and skill trees. You collect gun after gun with the same mindless, dopamine-pumping pleasure of popping chip after chip in your mouth. It is awful and wonderful and also white noise, an experience so commonplace and reptilian that you wouldn’t call it the best gaming experience you’ve ever had, but you’d be down for it if someone put it out in a bowl.
Much like a bowl of chips, it also leaves a hell of a mess when the party’s finally over.
The story in Borderlands 3 is the same as it’s always been in Borderlands. Once again, you’re a vault hunter, a mercenary/fortune seeker who shoots their way across the bandit-ridden wastelands of the planet Pandora. The hope is that, in all this shooting, you will find your way to a Vault, an ancient repository of rumored riches. (And, usually, there’s a big nasty being in that Vault, watching over it all.) This time around, you’re answering a call from Lilith, one of the hunters from the first Borderlands who has since become commander of the Crimson Raiders militia that fights to protect civilians from bandit hordes and corporate overreach (corporations have armies in Borderlands). Also, of course, they want to loot those sweet, sweet vaults. They’re the good guys, kind of.
Nipping at your heels are the game’s antagonists, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, twin siblings who have united all the bandits of Pandora under their cult of personality. They’ve also figured out that there are other Vaults on planets elsewhere in the galaxy. Your mission: Get to those vaults before they do.
As the Vault Hunter hero of this game, you get to choose between four characters, each with their own impressively elaborate skill trees filled with different kinds of abilities to level up. There’s Zane, the Operative who controls the battlefield with drones, clones, and barriers. Moze, the Gunner, can summon a giant mech to pilot and outfit that mech with different cool weapons and upgrades. Amara, the Siren, can deal elemental damage by conjuring magical arms. And FL4K, the robot Beastmaster, has tamed a number of wild creatures who fight alongside them. It’s a lot to dig into, and like the first several potato chips in the bowl, it’s absolutely delicious at first.
Too Many Guns, But In A Fun Way
Unlike the tactical realism of a Ghost Recon, or Destiny’s system of arcane perks that only serve to make their sci-fi creations better at shooting, Borderlands’ guns are toys. They’re garish in shape and color, digital creations that exist to solve digital problems. It’s the best.
Borderlands’ approach both side-steps and doubles down on the gun fetishism that comes part and parcel in video games about shooting by making it all one big crass joke: wouldn’t it be cool to have an arsenal of impressive and interchangeable dicks that could also file your taxes?
Finding a good Borderlands gun feels like cheating, like you found an endgame weapon 20 hours too early. My first legendary sniper rifle was an absolute beast of a weapon that fired three incendiary projectiles at once but only consumed one bullet at a time. I got it at the end of the game’s first act, and it remained a staple of my firefights right up through the credits.
This is the high that Borderlands offers, and it feels great, but like any high, it cannot last. The experience of playing Borderlands often devolves into a hunt for the next fix, and the longer it takes to get that fix, the more time you have to resent the game for not giving it to you. When you’ve tasted the high of an unexpectedly power-packed weapon, trying out more of the “normal” guns makes you feel kind of like a scrub, you know?
Granted, “normal” in Borderlands 3 is still pretty wild. When you have guns that turn into homing grenades, or crawling drone turrets, or bouncing balls that yelp “ow” every time they ricochet off a surface, you’d have to work very hard to have a boring firefight.
The game is built to encourage an endless search for the perfect loadout. What if I’m missing out on the coolest gun I’ve ever seen in a video game? I won’t know until I find it, so I have to keep playing. But am I actually enjoying this? Or just chasing the high? It’s hard to say.
Tucked away into the corners of Borderlands 3, I do find a lot to like. Its generous approach to sidequests, for example, rewards players with items but also with bespoke little stories. There are whole regions of several maps that you’ll only ever go to if you’re pursuing a sidequest. They’re like optional dungeons, there for those who want to do them, each offering something new to see along with a chance for more loot.
Borderlands3’s soundtrack, which rarely makes itself known, has the benefit of offering occasional moments of delight when you stop to notice it. Like Borderlands itself, it can occasionally blast up into garish and annoying territory, but more often than not, it’s a hidden gem, there for the finding. After I got clobbered by a giant sphere drone and tried to re-evaluate my loadout, I happened to notice a throwback club groove that sounds a lot like the chorus to Kiesza’s “Hideaway,” with a touch of the sax-and-dance vibe at the end of Japanese Breakfast’s “Machinist.” Over on the swamp-world of Eden-6, I paused to take in a bit of ambient music that sounds like a Kate Bush synth cover.
These are little grace notes that show some personality in areas where other huge games might phone it in. There are some musical ideas I’d love to groove to there, but the game quickly moves on to other ones, like the (admittedly pretty good) running joke about a fictional modern jazz act.
The Borderlands Tone
Borderlands 3 is marketed as a comedy, but I’m not sure that’s what it truly wants to be. It’s irreverent, sure. There’s a very South Park-esque “everyone sucks” vibe to the game’s comedic beats. It’s just that the target of every joke is too lazy or too late. There’s a scene making fun of hipster baristas, a character who’s supposed to be a version of The Room writer/director/weirdo Tommy Wiseau, and an achievement list with titles like “On Fleek.”
Even less flattering are the game’s many comedic asides that make light of casual misogyny even as they exhibit an awareness of it. There’s the man who purposefully misstates “bitch” instead of “witch” when referring to a villain who’s an actual swamp witch. Another character, after saying something that could be interpreted as sexual harassment, notes that he “definitely attended that meeting.”
It remains baffling and infuriating that the game continues to treat dwarfism as fodder for slapstick comedy, even though it has ditched an offensive term for little people that previous games used, replacing it with the made-up term “tinks.” Or that, despite this being an issue raised about a character in Borderlands 2, Borderlands 3 has a white character appropriating African American Vernacular English. Or that this game prominently features Chris Hardwick reprising his Tales From The Borderlands role of Vaughn despite public allegations of emotional abuse (not all of the other returning characters have their original voice actors back).
While this is the garish shade with which Borderlands 3 colors itself, the game’s overarching narrative is more interested in telling a sincere story that feels like a last hurrah for the cast of characters that has slowly developed over the past four Borderlands games. (And yes, Tales From The Borderlands is part of this farewell tour.) Borderlands3 is casually and quietly inclusive, making it clear that a number of its heroes and villains are queer or nonbinary while also not calling too much attention to it. It’s a story in which the heroes are mostly women—women who lead and sacrifice and disagree and win. There are jokes, but the story delivers its stakes with a straight face, and bets that players will be delighted at which characters will turn, and who they will miss.
The bummer is that, much like its comedy, the drama of Borderlands 3 doesn’t really have a target it’s willing to show teeth to. “Corporations” in the abstract sense have always been the overarching villain in Borderlands games, but they’ve also been a target that Borderlands has always stood up to with the weakest of knees. It is hard, after all, to make clean hits at massive companies for trampling people underfoot in an amoral quest for profit when the heart of your game is wholly dedicated to selfish plunder.
The specific antagonists of Borderlands 3, Troy and Tyreen Calypso, also feel like missed opportunities. By making them shock-jock streamers who have amassed a cult following among the bandits of Pandora, Borderlands 3 gestures at the kind of unchecked influence YouTubers and livestreamers can have in our current media landscape, and how viral fame can also destroy those who it elevates. The bones of something compelling are there, but Borderlands 3 lacks any of the conviction necessary to deliver on it. Its themes are as poorly developed as its sense of humor.
It’s Still The Best At What It Does
Despite the proliferation of games like Borderlands in the burgeoning loot shooter genre, there still isn’t a big-budget game that does exactly what it does. It’s a massive offline Diablo-style first-person shooting game that can be joined at any point with friends, either online or on the couch. All of its serious competition—be it Destiny 2 or Warframe or The Division 2—come with a pretty big deviation, namely a required internet connection.
While the broad strokes remain the same, Borderlands 3 is a better Borderlands game than we’ve ever seen, notably in the way that it opens up the endgame. There’s the prerequisite new game plus that lets you keep your loot and skills to take on the story again, just harder and with better loot.
There’s also the new Mayhem mode, which allows you to go back into the world after the end of the campaign and clean up any side quests you have left, with stronger enemies and random modifiers that will buff certain weapons or enemy health, or debuff your stats. Maybe energy weapon damage is boosted while regular weapon damage is dialed back. Maybe your guns do more damage while your action skills do less. There are three tiers of Mayhem, each offering better loot in exchange for steeper modifiers. It’s a terrific feature that makes going back and cleaning up leftover side quests—which, as mentioned, are substantial—feel so much more rewarding.
Unfortunately, on a technical level, Borderlands 3 is surprisingly bad at one of its core features: inventory management. I’m not merely referring to the interface, although it is a bit too cluttered and throws so many numbers at you that your eyes will glaze over after several hours of comparing loot. The bigger issue is performance. On Xbox One X, the inventory screen stutters almost without fail. Sometimes there’s a barely perceptible lag, and other times it takes a full three to five seconds for your guns to load in.
This may sound like a minor quibble, but it’s a problem that’s magnified when you play in split-screen. The rest of co-op play works well enough, although the same technical issues that you may encounter in solo play, like lighting that doesn’t properly adjust when you go from indoor to outdoor environments, will persist. The real issue is the whole game grinds to a stop whenever one player opens up their inventory screen.
I don’t mean the game pauses when one player pauses. (The game only pauses in co-op when both players pause, which is a very nice feature.) I mean the frame rate drops to the damn floor and no one can move for a couple seconds once someone opens their inventory. Given how much of the game is devoted to inventory management, it’s enough to make you want to tap out after a single co-op mission.
I don’t know how vital couch co-op is to the Borderlands community as a whole, but it is one of the reasons why I’ve always kept a Borderlands game within reach. It’s one of the last holdouts in the big-budget shooter space that has held on to split-screen co-op in a world where it’s largely gone extinct (Gears 5 is another.). To me, it’s part of the reason I even bother with Borderlands.
So, How About Those Chips?
When a video game franchise has been around long enough, it establishes an identity in the public consciousness. That identity can become a defense against criticism. What did I expect, for a Borderlands game to not be Borderlands, with all the good and bad that comes with that?
Borderlands 3 has what its predecessors had: the corny humor that doesn’t always land, an unremarkable story, and an endless loop of replacing your loadout with a slightly improved loadout. It’s a relatively static experience in a franchise that hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last ten years. It is what Borderlands has always been, and everyone knows what that entails.
There’s room for it in your life, just like there’s room for a bag of potato chips in your pantry. They’re great for parties, or carb emergencies. They’re also unfulfilling, and don’t contribute much to your health. We call it junk food for a reason.
Like junk food, Borderlands 3 is an exercise in cheap hedonism. It’s not meant to take the place of a meal, but it still warrants criticism for being what it is, what it’s always been: a compulsively playable shooter with some good ideas and also some frustratingly retrograde attitudes. There’s enough good here to understand why you’d keep it around, but also enough troubling aspects that you could justify cutting it from your life entirely. But, even then, if you came across it at a house party, you’d probably take a bite.
I’m playing Greedfall right now and enjoying myself in spite of some misgivings. One thing I miss at the moment—and it’s something crucial to role-playing games—is a solid musical score. There’s moments of rousing action music, but it’s very limited. That got me thinking: What RPG has the best music? The answer is simple: It’s Chrono Cross, and nothing else has ever come close.
Chrono Cross released in 1999 and was met with praise and confusion in equal measure. It was a good game, but this was the eagerly awaited sequel to Chrono Trigger? A game that only loosely related to the original? Yet Cross built an identity of its own with magical dragons, cerulean seas, a huge cast of characters, and fantastic music. Composer Yasunori Mitsuda had worked on Chrono Trigger alongside Nobuo Uematsu and Noriko Matsueda. Here, he took the reins into his own hands. The results are absolutely stunning. The opening theme, “Scars of Time,” remains unmatched and has really stood the test of time.
Mitsuda had previously worked on the similarly stunning (albeit somewhat incomplete) Xenogears and would go on to write music for games like Kid Icarus: Uprising and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. He’s one of the best composers that video games has ever seen. Just listen to Chrono Cross’ haunting and beautiful ending theme, “Radical Dreamers.” I’ve been listening to it for days now and every time, it stirs a deep reaction in my soul.
Apocryphal stories say that when when director Masato Kato and Mitsuda sat down to replay the game, this ending theme was enough to move Kato to tears. I don’t know if that’s true, but it really is a fantastic piece of music. Tracks like these cement Chrono Cross as a high watermark for video game scores, and while games like Octopath Traveler have sometimes come close to matching it, I’d suggest that Chrono Cross is a singular achievement in this regard. Even if you don’t like where the story went after Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda nailed it here, to the point that two decades later, there’s not really been anything else like it.
Gaming series known for their superior soundtracks often have one thing in common — a wide array of powerful or catchy music orchestrated to fit a specific environment. Though plenty of games (mostly annual sports series) have used popular prerecorded tunes as part of their soundtrack in the past, they rarely stand out from the crowd. But Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater did, and two decades later it remains one of the most iconic game soundtracks of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s.
While the popularity of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games may have made it seem like the only decent skateboarding series in existence, the first entry was actually inspired by games such as EA’s Street Sk8er for the original PlayStation and Sega’s Top Skater arcade machines. Top Skater, which featured a full-sized mountable skateboard as a controller, was an especially big influence for the original Pro Skater team at the now-defunct Neversoft Entertainment.
When it came time to choose the music that would accompany each two minute skate session, the Pro Skater team decided to follow both Street Sk8er and Top Skater’s use of legitimate alternative and punk rock tracks. Straying away from any unnecessary applause or obnoxious announcers, their game would feature the two types of audio that truly mattered — realistic skating sound effects and funky fresh jams by bands like Primus and The Dead Kennedys.
Growing up in a strictly Nintendo household, Pro Skater was far off my radar when it launched in the August of 1999. Luckily, a neighborhood friend with access to a PlayStation and a copy of the Jampack Summer ‘99 demo disc was already hooked on its arcade-style gameplay. After he acquired a true copy of the game we spent an entire weekend catching sick air and tracking down VHS tapes. Pro Skater’s realistic physics and showy tricks wowed me, but it was the upbeat soundtrack (with just a few swears thrown in) that really embedded itself into my adolescent brain.
And look, the Pro Skater soundtrack isn’t as hardcore or punk or metal as rock gets. I’m well aware of that now. But for a nerdy kid growing up in the suburbs of Indiana, it was far more extreme than, say, Air Bud or Rocket Power. Maybe not Rocket Power… those kids could shred.
In my mind Pro Skater was the epitome of cool, and when word got out that the game was coming to the Nintendo 64 in March of the next year, I began scrounging around the house for loose change. Featuring one of the few blue cartridge casings, the game was soon added to my small N64 library with the help of my older brother (who had taken up actual skateboarding at the time).
Though the tracks sounded much less crisp on the Nintendo 64’s compressed cartridges, and some of the vocals had been completely removed, Pro Skater was still a monster hit in my household. The game was one of the few games my family owned that required a memory pak for saves, a fact we realized only after we had brought it home. Instead of buying one, my brother and I decided we would just sit and play through the game in its entirety whenever possible. From the warehouse to downtown to Roswell, we knew all the best combos and the location of every secret tape.
Of course, playing a game that much really ingrains the soundtrack into your subconscious. Today, as an adult, I still find myself humming many of the Pro Skater tunes I listened to for hours on end as a child. Sometimes I even boot up my worn N64 copy and skate around for old times’ sake.
Having played through every Tony Hawk game up through Underground 2, none have stuck with me quite like the very first. Even though other entries may have featured improved skaters, venues, and tricks over the years, it’s hard to top the the soundtrack that started it all.
The three tracks embedded in this article were my favorites growing up. The entirety of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtrack can be found here.
Netflix on consoles was a much different experience a decade ago. Today users just download an app, login and start watching some TV or movies. But back in 2009, depending on your console, you might have to order a disc from Netflix and link your account to their service to watch whatever was on Netflix in 2009. Amazingly, even some PS2 owners could get these discs.
Stop Skeletons From Fighting released a video recently that covers the entire history of Netflix on consoles, from the first Xbox app all the way to the Wii and PS3 discs and beyond.
If you had a PS3 back in 2010 and watched Netflix on it, you might remember those streaming discs. These were required on Wii and PS3 to watch Netflix due to an exclusivity agreement Netflix had with Microsoft and the Xbox 360. The deal was only the Xbox 360 could have instant app streaming. So the disc allowed Sony and Netflix to sidestep this agreement.
But something really interesting that is quickly mentioned in the video is that for a short period of time PS2 owners in Brazil could actually boot up Netflix on their PS2 consoles. This service also required a disc plus a memory card.
Netflix support for the PS2 was officially ended in 2012, which angered a user on the Gamespot forums. However, Googling the subject, it seems some folks were able to circumvent this and keep watching House Of Cards and BoJack Horseman long after official support was pulled.
The full video from Stop Skeletons From Fighting is an entertaining look back at the short period of time when Netflix was still growing into what they are today and was using consoles and exclusivity deals to help build their massive audience.
Cloud saves are great. They keep your save data safe, providing backups for everything you’ve ever accomplished in a PS4 game. They also makes it easy to stop playing on one PS4 and pick up right where you left off on another. But PS4 cloud saves have a bizarre 1,000-file cap, and no one’s really sure why it exists.
Twitter user Dizzy_Ziddy ran into this problem just this week while trying to upload more saves to their cloud storage, sparking new questions about the fine print surrounding cloud saves on PS4. “Still gonna complain about PSN’s cloud save limit where they have a ridiculous file size cap (100GB) but you can never reach it since they have a quantity limit (1000 saves),” they wrote.
That’s because the space save files take up is relatively low, with most running somewhere between 5 and 15MB, while the actual number of files can multiply dramatically depending on how many games you have, and also the type. For example, I have save data for 110 games on my PS4, which I’ve had since launch. That amounts to 6.40GB storage. A lot of those games have multiple save files, though, and some have a ton. My save data for Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age consist of six files, while my save data for The Witcher 3 contains 14. Then there’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, which, despite all of its failings, I played a ton of. That save data contains 84 individual save files.
Look, I’m not proud, but those are the facts. Why do I have so many save files for some games? Who knows. Maybe I wanted to be able to revisit a specific part of the game, or maybe I was worried that my choices in the next section might send me hurtling down one particular path, or maybe I’m just a save-file hoarder and deleting old saves makes me extremely anxious and sad. Could I be better about managing my save data? Yes. Do you want to see how many unread emails are in my inbox? No. But surely if Sony is going to give me 100GB of cloud save storage for paying $60 a year on PlayStation Plus, I shouldn’t have to contend with a weird, seemingly arbitrary 1,000-file cap.
Sony did not respond by the time of publishing when Kotaku asked about it. Maybe there actually is a practical technical reason for it. For now, it seems silly.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has announced that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony will be required to implement new policies requiring the disclosure of all loot box odds for games on their platforms.
“I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform,” Michael Warnecke, ESA’s chief counsel for tech policy, said earlier today at a workshop on loot boxes held by the Federal Trade Commission.
“Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.”
When reached for comment, the ESA directed Kotaku to a blog post on the organization’s website, in which the organization says the console makers are planning to implement this new policy sometime in 2020. It also states that many of the industry’s major publishers, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, and Warner Bros., have agreed to implement a similar disclosure policy “no later than the end of 2020.”
When asked about the coming changes, a Sony spokesperson gave Kotaku the following statement:
“Sony Interactive Entertainment aims to ensure PlayStation users have access to information and tools, such as parental wallet controls, that will help them make informed decisions about in-game purchasing. We support industry efforts to disclose the probability of obtaining randomized virtual items, known as loot boxes, and are committed to providing consumers with this information for all games we produce and publish.”
Microsoft and Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement came after Warnecke listed the other ways the video game industry has already attempted to self-regulate in the past with regard to loot boxes. It’s a topic that has come under increasing government scrutiny after it made headlines in late 2017 following the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II. While games currently include labels indicating whether they contain microtransaction purchases, and video game consoles also have parental controls that can be implemented to limit how much money children spend in-game, the industry is clearly feeling pressure to go further.
Warnecke explained that these new policies are meant to provide “a comprehensive approach to ensuring consumers get the information they need so they can make informed purchasing decisions when it comes to paid loot boxes.”
Another potential change could come from legislation from Congress, like that which was previously proposed by Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri. In May, Hawley introduced a bill in the Senate that would try to ban minors from obtaining games containing microtransactions and loot boxes.
While requiring games sold on their platforms disclose loot box odds would be new for the major console gaming platforms, it’s a policy already being implemented on mobile. Apple announced that requirement for games on iOS in 2017, while Google made similar changes only this past May.