Nov 25th 2017

Governments and developers split on loot boxes as gambling

Video games have been under scrutiny recently, with loot boxes especially. A lot of gamers have been at odds with the loot box style of revenue for a while, and now it has gotten enough attention that people outside of the community have gotten involved. This whole controversy has also led to a lot of games pushing back against that revenue style and advertising how they aren’t using, or won’t use loot boxes in their games.
The biggest offender when people think of loot boxes, is Star Wars: Battlefront II, and that game is what brought them into the limelight. Now governments from around the world have been calling out loot boxes (Star Wars: Battlefront II’s in particular), and considering labeling them as a form of gambling. China has had legislation for a good part of the year that required publishers to publish the drop rates of things like loot boxes. Belgium is currently investigating whether loot boxes constitute gambling by their country’s definition, and want to push to have it labeled that way throughout Europe. Hawaiian legislators are pushing for loot boxes to be labeled as gambling in the United States. A French senator had correspondence with the French organization responsible for regulating gambling. Finally, the U.K. had a petition to review loot boxes, but posted a statement that even if they do pose a risk to children, they aren’t gambling under U.K. law. While the ESRB has officially stated that they don’t “consider loot boxes to be gambling.”

A lot of governments are looking into loot boxes and their use in games. Although, not every game uses loot boxes, and a few of them have been very keen on reminding people of that. One of the biggest examples came Monster Hunter World and CD Projekt Red. Monster Hunter World explained in an interview that they didn't need microtransactions and, "Our focus is on wanting to get people to play our action game and feel the kind of satisfaction that comes with the achievement you get with completing a hunt and getting rewards. We want people to have the experience that we've made for them rather than the option to skip the experience." CD Projekt Red got involved after suspicions that they were planning to implement a predatory microtransaction system into Cyberpunk 2077 rose. They replied to the worries in a tweet saying, “Worry not. When thinking CP2077, think nothing less than TW3 — huge single player, open world, story-driven RPG. No hidden catch, you get what you pay for — no bullshit, just honest gaming like with Wild Hunt. We leave greed to others.”

Games are in a precarious spot now. Lawmakers are looking to score points by protecting children. Developers seem to be taking a stance against loot boxes, or staying quiet on the matter. This is of course after EA’s disastrous attempts to address the issue. Many gamers would like to see loot boxes go away, but there are also a lot who don’t really care about them. Where do you fall on the spectrum? Maybe you’re even all for loot boxes, just so long as they’re done the right way? Let me know on Twitter @spencerhavens.