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Gaming News – If you are a gamer, you are probably familiar with what loot boxes are. For those of you who are not, a loot box is a product in a video game that gives you a selection of randomised virtual items. They first started to show up in free-to-play games but have now made it into mainstream AAA titles. Typically, loot boxes are monetised with real world currency (sometimes they can also be bought using in-game credits that are earned during play as well) and that is when in the issue lies.
The loot box controversy
Games companies have been coming under fire recently due to the mass use of the loot box business model and it looks like this may be about to change. One of the latest controversies centres around Star Wars Battlefront II.
In Star Wars Battlefront II, you have both credits and crystals. Credits are earned through playing the game whilst crystals are bought with real money. Both can be used for unlocking new characters as well as loot boxes (that contain items called star cards). Players have found that the most popular characters cost the highest amounts of credits to unlock (for example, Luke Skywalker costed 60,000 credits when the game was released). Some players were complaining that they felt they had to pay real world money (on top of the price they paid for the game itself) for these additional characters as credits were not easily earned.
The Belgium Gaming Commission has looked into loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II to see if they constitute as gambling. It is especially concerning due to the game being rated PEGI 12 and thus would be available to and marketed to minors. The Belgium Gaming Commission has not concluded their investigation but have stated, “The mixing of money and addiction is gambling”. Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens also said, “Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
But Belgium is not the only place looking at the issues…
The Dutch website NU.nl reported that authorities in the Netherlands are now investigating whether video games with loot boxes are to be considered games of chance.
Rep. Chris Lee from Hawaii has also taken a stand on the issue. Addressing television cameras, he said that steps should be taken to combat the “predatory behaviour” of video game publishers and loot boxes.
All the while, some Asian countries already regulate loot boxes under gambling law. With all the heat that loot boxes are getting at the moment, it looks like we could see a more global ban or some form of multi-jurisdictional regulation on the business model.
It should be noted that Star Wars Battlefront II is not the only game of late to have loot boxes in it. Other games to feature them are Assassins Creed Origins, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty WW2, Overwatch, Middle Earth: Shadow of War, Destiny 2 as well as some sports games such as NBA 2K18 and Madden 18.
As of writing this, EA (the publisher behind Star Wars Battlefront II, has ‘temporarily’ removed the payment system from the game as well as lowered the credit cost for some of the unlock-able characters.
What do you think?
Having a loot box business model in a game means that certain players can literally pay real money for a strategic advantage. Is that fair? Do you feel that the use of loot boxes in games could constitute as a form of gambling? Finally, what affect do you think these would have on those under the age of 18? Let us know in the comment boxes below.