Loot boxes in video games are coming under intense pressure from gamers, the media, and several governments. The whole was recently set off by Electronic Arts (EA) and its new Star Wars Battlefront II video game. Due to the way the loot boxes were implemented in the game, many started questioning if these could be seen as a form of gambling. This is especially worrying considering the large number of younger video game players.
Star Wars Battlefront II has made the news for all the wrong reasons. The majority of the coverage is focused on the loot boxes and whether they should be considered gambling.
What are Loot Boxes?
Many people will not be sure what a loot box is. Essentially, it is a virtual box containing randomly generated items for the video game. Players can earn these boxes in game, or more worryingly, they can purchase these with real-world money. Star Wars Battlefront II angered gamers with the way in which these were implemented.
Players could even get real in-game advantages from the items found in these loot boxes. This has caused many people to worry that the online multiplayer game will be ‘pay-to-win’, as gamers willing to spend more money on these boxes will have a higher chance of unlocking better items, giving them an advantage.
Should be Classified as Gambling?
The backlash from the gaming community has been so big that the story was picked up by mainstream media. This has also lead to several governments looking into whether these loot boxes should be classified as gambling. The Belgian Gaming Commission has already investigated and determined that, in its opinion, it is gambling. Other governments like the UK and Australia have also indicated they will be looking into these loot boxes.
Hawaii recently spoke out against them as well, referring to EA’s behaviour as predatory and warning parents against purchasing the game for their children. The ESRB in the USA, responsible for giving age restrictions to video games, recently announced that it did not consider loot boxes to be gambling. The reason was that players are guaranteed to receive some items from the loot box, and we know there are never any guarantees when playing actual casino games. The ESRB likened them to card collecting games, where you buy packs of cards, hoping to find rare cards.
Whatever the outcome is, there are many similarities between loot boxes and gambling. Many feel that game companies are preying on children and those prone to addictive behaviour to make money with these loot boxes.