Despite Apple’s New Guideline, Loot Box Odds Are Still a Secret in Japan

Loot boxes have been a long-standing tradition in the video game community. From the popular AAA titles to the smaller-scale mobile games, they are a common sight, bourne from a system that rewards players based on either sheer hard work and dedication, or cash payments.

The popularity of games with such microtransaction processes indicates a level of familiarity and acceptance among players. But recently, a boom in loot boxes have led to much controversy, with players speaking out against the act of what is deemed as gambling, fuelled further by reports on said crates and chests found in Destiny 2, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and Overwatch.

And while everyone is entitled to their own views, there’s no denying that the impact brought on by the debate has caused some changes in the game developers circle. Apple, for instance, has introduced a new set of guidelines for iOS app developers should they decide to put up their games on the App Store.

The latest addition to the list of five other points reads:

Apps offering ‘loot boxes’ or other mechanisms that provide randomised virtual items for purchase must disclose the odds of receiving each type of item to customers prior to purchase.

Here’s the thing: the exact line is nowhere to be found in the Japanese-language App Store, despite its inclusion in the English version. It’s likely to be a delayed action on Apple’s part, though it does reveal an interesting disparity in culture differences between the land of the rising sun and everywhere else.

Translated text from the Japanese-language App Store as of December 22, 2017 – notice how the sixth point is lacking.

The frequent traveller would know that capsule toy machines are ubiquitous in Japan, so much such that they line the paths of any indoor and outdoor space. Of course, these vending machines aren’t just exclusive to the Japanese – after all, other countries have them too – but there they retain a cultural status of sorts, and this means the locals are probably used to the sight and act of randomised content purchases.

In a way, the capsule toy machine is rather similar to how loot boxes work. There’s a list of items available for grabs, and each attempt yields unknown odds. It’s not exactly gambling, per se – there’s a chance of losing in gambling, while the gacha (as the Japanese calls them) has a 100% win rate, with the only issue being if the product being dispensed aligns with one’s desire. Simply put, it’s an offline loot box.

Although there exist self-regulatory laws against loot box mechanics in Japan, where all titles are required to disclose the odds, Apple may just introduce some changes to the current system, hopefully sooner than later.

Whether a similar disclosure directive for Japanese developers is in order remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: the option to keep loot box odds a secret is still available, at least for the near term.