A recent post on the Pokemon GO subreddit has laid out serious allegations against developer Niantic. The accusation is that by not disclosing the drop rate of shiny Pokémon, Niantic has breached the iOS App Store Terms of Service.
The claim came about after a different, unconfirmed post on /r/TheSilphRoad stated that, during the most recent regional event, shiny Pokémon which used to show up in 1 out of every 50 eggs now only show up in 1 out of every 126 eggs. The post in question apparently made use of a tool that wasn't allowed on the subreddit, so it has been removed, but an archived version of the claim can be found here.
The iOS app store requires that games featuring loot boxes or other randomized items for purchase must tell players the odds of receiving each type of item. If a game doesn't do that, it has breached the app store terms of service and might face removal from the app store.
But what if it's not the random item itself for sale? What if what they sell is something that's not needed to unlock the random item, but helps you unlock them quickly? Does that still count as selling loot boxes?
Even if the analysis on /r/TheSilphRoad isn't accurate, this question lies at the heart of the issue. Eggs provide users with a random Pokémon every time one hatches, which arguably makes them a loot box, even though Niantic doesn't deem them such. Niantic sells incubators, which hatch the Pokemon after players walk a certain distance. Players start with one incubator that can be used an infinite number of times, so all that extra incubators do is let players hatch more eggs at once.
It's a fine distinction to make, and Apple's response to the claim (if they respond at all) will determine just how broad of a definition the app store has for "loot boxes." If adding an extra step between the purchase and the actual random element is enough to sidestep the drop rate requirement, there will likely be a lot more developers making use of that strategy in the future.