Readers to The Orkney News will recall that our resident reviewer of gaming, Sgathaich, wrote an article on the use of loot boxes within games.
“The loot boxes incentivize gambling by becoming more desirable over time to spend real money. When you open them there is a flash to give a sense of reward. This also happens when there is a limited time offer. You know you can’t get enough freely in the time to get the few objects you want – instead of the mountain of junk you can – so you are continuously encouraged in loot box games to pay real money.”
Sgathaich was concerned that these games were available to children and that they encouraged gambling. The issue has been of grave concern to many gamers and those in the gaming industry who do not use loot boxes to entice players to spend money.
“Last week, Belgium’s Gaming Commission announced that it had launched an investigation into whether the loot boxes available for purchase in games like Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2 constitute a form of gambling. Today, VTM News reported that the ruling is in, and the answer is yes. “
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) have not described them as gambling (as yet).
“While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
“The ESRB tries to make an argument about the difference between Real gambling which involves using real money and simulated gambling which is when no real money is used. The problem is Loot boxes do use real money. Some games will make that optional but the moment there is that option it moves from simulated to real gambling. This also should apply to any game where you use a micro transaction to purchase in game currency which is then used to buy loot boxes. That is exactly what poker chips and casinos do – exchanging a real currency for a fake one to help lose track of money you lose.”
“Had the ESRB correctly classed loot boxes as gambling then those games would have to be registered for adults which would have greatly damaged the sales both of the game and the use of the loot boxes. It is much easier to influence children and isn’t that the point of the gambling act ?”