In 2018 the ESRB added In-Game Purchases as a ratings descriptor for applicable games. Now the ESRB is adding another descriptor: Random Items. If a game includes the equivalent of purchasable loot boxes, now there’s a label for it.
The ESRB has defined how this new rating will be applied:
This new Interactive Element, In-Game Purchases (Includes Random Items), will be assigned to any game that contains in-game offers to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency (or with virtual coins or other forms of in-game currency that can be purchased with real world currency) for which the player doesn’t know prior to purchase the specific digital goods or premiums they will be receiving (e.g., loot boxes, item packs, mystery awards).
Although ‘loot boxes’ is becoming a standardized term for purchasable random items, the ESRB is purposefully avoiding the nomenclature. They want the new label to include all elements of exchanging real money for random items, as well as to avoid confusion with people outside of gaming (such as parents) who aren’t familiar with the term.
The original In-Game Purchases label will still be used for games that include non-randomized paid elements, such as DLC and other additional content.