Lootboxes are a hot and noisy topic across the internet and now, even with governments and main stream media. But are they gambling?
So this discussion has multiple view points and honestly each has merit. I fall on one particular side of this fence that’s a little unique, but that’s for the end.
So PEGI and the ESRB don’t count lootboxes as gambling, as according to them, there is no specific legislation against the practice, and unlike actual gambling, you are guaranteed a reward. This is actually entirely true. Even if you don’t want what you get, investment is returned.
China is a little different, making Overwatch display odds of items, and classifying lootboxes as “Lottery tickets”. Here in the UK, lottery tickets are counted under gambling laws and age restrictions. So we already have overlap based on different countries.
Belgium is now investigating both Overwatch (The harbinger of the craze really) and Star Wars Battlefront 2, for child gambling. Namely, the idea of introducing monetary games of chance to minors. This I also agree with. The last thing you want is the seeds of gambling addiction from games.
This got so severe when the main stream media like BBC and CNN picked this up, that Disney called EA and soon after in app purchases were disabled, at least temporarily, in Star Wars Battlefront 2. Likely a way to save their brand image.
Now my stance actually comes from PEGI themselves. It actually stems from Pokémon.
Pokémon no longer has Game Corners, due to gambling laws here in the EU (We didn’t have them from Pokémon Platinum onwards) and in the re-releases of earlier games on the 3DS eShop, they carry a 12+ rating, solely for gambling. The trading of virtual currency you pay no money for in exchange for the chance of profit is labelled clearly on the box as gambling to the extent later games remove the feature entirely, but when using real world money for the privilege and a slight change in that you are guaranteed rewards even if you don’t want them, it’s not gambling.
To me personally, this makes no sense. You can’t hold both to different standards, but then the argument comes to something like Trading Card Games. Booster Packs are effectively lootboxes. So are Kinder Eggs. So are many things. What makes lootboxes in games different? Nothing.
I feel as though the argument has become skewed. From one side there is the fight whether these constitute gambling or not, or an entry to such addictions, and on the other, the argument they have no place in a full price retail game.
Either way, precedents are about to be set.
If you enjoyed this brief discussion (I’ve been in the hospital!), share with your friends and comment away, and until next time, Happy Gaming!