Are loot boxes considered to be gambling?
Belgium is preparing a ban of video games, which include gambling elements. And these are no unknown games, but top titles such as Star Wars Battlefront II.
Addiction to video games
You know it: you get the possibility to open a box, with a cool extra in it, something that distinguishes you from the other players or what gives you a huge advantage. What do you need to do for it? Well, nothing special. Several games have different loot box mechanism. Some offer you the possibility to buy a loot box for the in game currency (you can get the box either by completing tasks or by buying it for real money) the others offer you the chance to buy keys to boxes for real money. The creators of such games know exactly what they are doing. You do not get that many loot boxes for completing tasks and you want more. Many players start displaying an addiction, which can be compared to a gambling addiction.
Gambling in Star Wars Battlefront II and others
Gambling opponents have focused recently on two big videogame companies – Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard. The reason for this is the fact that the games made by these companies offer players an advantage via loot boxes, but they have to invest significant money into them. We mentioned earlier that there is a thin line between the purchasing of loot boxes or keys and gambling (ESRB has confirmed that this cannot be considered to be gambling), however several people say that the line has been crossed already. Not only adults, but especially children are spending money in order to get an advantage in the game. This is applied especially for the games Star Wars Battlefront II and Overwatch.
The most important fact here is the possibility to buy loot boxes directly - they are not a reward for playing. Another problem is the price for the things that are in the loot boxes – they are just random. This opens up the question regarding gambling. It is obvious that these companies are targeting younger players, who are not able to see the risks. These two popular games have been noticed by the Belgian Commission for Gambling, which decided to further investigate this matter.
The commission is considering to rate the games with loot boxes as a form of gambling, especially when there is the option to buy loot boxes separately. The problem is very actual and in case of Star Wars Battlefront II, the publisher has decided to refrain from micro transactions in the game after a very bad feedback from the players (however, supposedly only for a limited time in order to adjust the system to meet players´ requests). However, the spokesman of the commission said regarding the upcoming decision that “The mix of money and addiction is gambling”.
Other countries dislike gambling in games as well
Other countries are also aware about loot boxes in video games. France is for instance considering banning the mentioned games. The biggest problem is not actually in the equipment that brings cosmetic changes to the game (clothing which has no effect on the game experience itself), but additions that affect the game balance (pay to advance, pay to win), such as in Star Wars Battlefront II. Great Britain took a look on these games as well. The big publishers are going to explain a lot.
In the USA, Hawaii has started the fight against gambling in Star Wars Battlefront II. The representatives of the state wrote to Electronic Arts a letter stating that „This game is actually just a casino in Star Wars style with the aim to lure children into the claws of gambling in order to improve their success chances in the game. These mechanisms have no place in games for minor players and maybe in games at all.
Currently, nothing stops EA from selling loot boxes with random content via micro transactions, because there is no obligation to state the odds of winning something worthy. Companies as this one can focus especially on young players without sufficient cognitive skills to see how they are used.” This is a truth that is being kept in silence. Many young players have had problems without noticing what is happening to them. A similar problem happened already with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the past. Big companies know it and they optimize their systems in order to be as attractive as possible for young players. Nobody is saying it out loud, but it is so.
Gambling has always been present in games!
Many say that the gambling element has been introduced just recently – with Pokémon or Magic: The Gathering. So far, the loot boxes from Star Wars Battlefront II have disappeared, but nobody knows how they will come back. Blizzard does not plan to change the system in Overwatch. The result of the situation can be interesting – games containing gambling elements are going to be age restricted and the sales of the games will decrease. The publishers want of course to prevent it. It will be therefore interesting to observe the further development of this situation, which will be of significance for the future of the whole videogame industry.
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