The hot topic of the year is loot boxes, which are game components that allow players to exchange real-world money for the chance to obtain a randomized in-game item. Players have become increasingly critical of game developers since the release of Electronic Arts’ (EA) Star Wars Battlefront II, claiming that the developers force them to wager in order to have the most enjoyable gaming experience possible.
Loot boxes are in-game features that were first introduced in games in early 2007 and were reintroduced in 2010; these features can be found in a variety of games and allow players to obtain outstanding characters, equipment, or vehicles by spending real money. This offer, however, comes with a catch. Because loot box contents are completely random, a player can spend $9.99 and walk away with the best item in the game, or they can spend thousands of dollars and walk away with nothing. To put it another way, loot boxes are essentially gambling, and because they cannot teach you how to play roulette on your phone, purchasing them is a waste of money.
As previously stated, loot boxes are not a new type of in-game content
However, the concept has only recently gained popularity thanks to free mobile games, which have long relied on in-app purchases as their primary source of revenue. However, the developers of these games artificially limit gameplay in order to force users to invest money in the games. The concept has spread beyond mobile gaming and can now be found in games played on consoles and personal computers.
The practice of restricting game play in order to increase profits has come under fire in a number of countries around the world. Chris Lee, a US politician, has accused game developers of engaging in predatory behavior, claiming that games like Star Wars: Battlefront II are nothing more than casinos with a Star Wars theme designed to trick children into gambling.
It’s worth noting that the age group specifically targeted by the inclusion of loot boxes in video games is children and teenagers. Children naturally want to get the most out of a game, and they are willing to pay to do so. The problem is that they are frequently unaware that they are spending real money on in-game enhancements. This is the root of the issue.
For many years, there have been reports of children spending money that belonged to their parents on in-game microtransactions, but the total amount of money that children invest in video games has increased significantly in recent years.
A 12-year-old British boy racked up a debt of £1,150 on his father’s credit card at the start of 2012. The child was under the impression that he was leveling up his characters with game points rather than actual money.
In a situation very similar to this, a 17-year-old Canadian adolescent charged $7,626 on his father’s credit card. The credit card had been given to the child in case of an emergency and to help the family business on occasion.
In contrast, a story about loot boxes piqued regulators’ interest the previous year
In the waning hours of 2017, an anonymous Reddit user published an open letter to Electronic Arts and other game companies whose work includes loot boxes on the website Reddit, right around the time that the microtransactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II became a topic of public debate.
The user stated in the letter that they are a “19-year-old gambling addict,” which explains their behavior. The young man, on the other hand, was not addicted to gambling in any way. Instead, they had racked up a $17,000 debt by spending money on loot boxes in their favorite video games. In the letter, the gamer also revealed that they have been addicted to gambling since they were 13 years old and spent about $30 on Clash of Clans. The letter contained this information. In essence, the message was an appeal to all video game developers, pleading with them to consider the long-term impact of loot boxes.
It appears that several countries have already concluded that the use of loot boxes can lead to young people becoming addicted to gambling. For example, legislators in Belgium have determined that loot boxes constitute illegal gambling under Belgian law.
In April of 2018, the Belgian Gaming Commission unanimously approved a decision to prohibit the use of loot boxes in games. Belgium is the most recent European country to outlaw the contentious in-game feature, following in the footsteps of another European country, the Netherlands, which was the first. Furthermore, game developers who do not remove loot boxes from their games will face penalties and even jail time if they do not comply with the new regulations.
Following an investigation, Belgian authorities determined that a number of video games, including Overwatch, FIFA 18, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, violated Belgium’s gambling laws. In an official statement, the Minister of Justice stated that if found guilty, the game creators could face fines of up to 800,000 euros (about 974,926 dollars) and up to 5 years in prison. If minors are involved, the severity of the consequences may be increased.
Nations such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, on the other hand, have concluded that loot boxes have no connection to gambling. Legislation pertaining to loot boxes has been proposed in the United States in an effort to limit access to those under the age of 18, though no final decision has been reached as of yet. Despite this, most states believe loot boxes are safe, at least to some extent.
In the end, the question of whether or not loot boxes should be subject to gambling regulations remains debatable, and as can be seen, opinions differ. It is up to each country’s legislative bodies to decide whether or not loot boxes require players to gamble.