Another Challenge Against Loot Boxes in Gaming

In the past few years, governments have been cracking down on loot boxes in video games. These countries are arguing that loot boxes are a form of gambling that is aimed at children, and many gamers agree. Normally when a government tries to regulate video games, the government doesn’t really understand what they are doing. This time, gamers are agreeing with the politicians: loot boxes need to go.

In case you don’t know what loot boxes are, they are items that gamers pay real cash for in order to have a chance at getting specific items. These loot boxes go by a variety of names in different games, but they are all the same. Sometimes they are called chests, crates, packs, or some other unique name the game developers came up with. No matter what they are called, loot boxes serve one purpose: entice gamers into purchasing them in order to make more profit.

The similarities between real life gambling and video game loot boxes is pretty apparent. For example, if you buy a loot box, you will always receive something in return, but it may not be what you want. The odds of getting the rarest items are sometimes so high, it will take thousands of loot boxes before you will get your desired item.

Many countries have already began legislation to make loot boxes illegal, and the Netherlands is next on that list. Kansspelautoriteit, the game authority in the Netherlands recently released their thoughts and ideas about loot boxes. The Dutch organization determined that four out of 10 video games were operating illegal gambling operations according to the Netherlands’s Betting and Gambling Act.

Only specific games were considered illegal. Games that provided a method to sell in-game items and also had loot box mechanics were deemed illegal. Only 2 out of the 10 games had adult only ratings, showing how far the gaming industry will go to make money, even targeting children.

Many other European countries are making an effort to ban or regulate video game loot boxes. Netherlands is the latest to announce such plans but Germany, Belgium and more have already began efforts to do away with loot boxes.

Lootboxes, Gambling, and our Youth

Gaming companies across the world are all trying to cash in on one business model in particular: microtransactions, specifically “loot boxes”

A lootbox is essentially a slot machine. In games such as Destiny 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, these winnings from lootboxes are only cosmetic, giving customization to your weapons, heroes or Guardians. However, some of these cosmetic items in these games are worth a lot more than you would think (very, very rare skins in CS:GO go for upwards of $10,000 USD).

The second type of lootbox prevalent in our gaming society is the box everybody fears: the boxes that give you an advantage over other players. Specifically in Star Wars: Battlefront 2. In these types of games, the only way to stand a fighting chance is to buy lootboxes to help upgrade your guns and characters. This would be less controversial if it were for a free to play game, but these are being implemented in $60, AAA publisher games.

People all across the world are now talking about it. Hawaiian representative Chris Lee gives a speech about the dangers of lootboxes, and how they are essentially gambling that appeals to our children. According to one study in the United Kingdom, 60% of people believe that lootboxes should be outlawed and classified as gambling. These boxes and strategies are all around us, and do not seem to be going away any time soon. So how do we regulate them?

Lots of different ideas have been going around. Some people have suggested making any game with a lootbox only purchasable by customers age 21 and above. Others have suggested to outlaw the system altogether.

From a business point of view, lootboxes are great. They bring in extra revenue on top of what the customer has already paid. But customers across the globe are now getting angry that they have to spend $30 on top of the $60 they have already paid to be able to compete in the game. But is this the pebble that will break the camels back, of the relationship between game developers and customers? Time will tell.