Loot Boxes: A Discussion on Gambling Outside of Casinos

Loot-boxes have been a source of contention for some time now. I spend a fair share of my work week listing to podcast that constantly complain about, and discuss at length, loot-boxes. For those of you that may not know, loot-boxes are an item in certain games that grant access to special items, skins, stages, characters, or even power ups. There are many different types of loot-boxes out there as well. There are loot-boxes that can be opened using in game currency. There are loot-boxes that require keys to be bought using real world money (Like PUBG). But the one thing that all loot-boxes have in common is that they are all random, some kind of gambling.

Oftentimes you will be playing a game online, and see something cool. Maybe it was a hairstyle in Call of Duty. Maybe it was a goal explosion in Rocket League. Maybe it was a weapon in League of Legends. Regardless of what it was, you want it. So what do you do? You go online and research how to unlock it. You go to your website of choice and you find it is in the “legendary loot-crate”. You hop onto your marketplace, and plop down the necessary funds. You wait with baited breath as you see a really well done animation for the unlocking of the item. And then you realize, you didn’t get what you wanted. Now what do you do? “I’ll just buy one more. I kind of like what I got, but I really wanted that skin”.

And that’s how they hook you. Most times, they lock the coolest, most powerful, most desirable items behind these paywalls. And almost all of these loot-boxes are completely random. Say you have a 1 in 400 chance of getting your desired item. That does not mean you can buy 400 boxes and be guaranteed to get one of your item of choice. That means that every single box has the same 1 in 400 odds. It is not unlike breeding for shiny Pokemon! I often tell my story of getting my shiny Charmander in 393 eggs, while my shiny Froakie took close to 1000 to achieve the same result. It’s just the luck of the draw. And some of us don’t have good luck with the RNG (Random Number Generator) gods. These RNG systems are the same ones that make (online) casinos win, so count your odds…!

So what do we do about this? As gamers, the best thing you can do is vote with your wallet. Not happy that you can’t get that super awesome car in Rocket League without opening who knows how many loot-boxes? You have a choice! Do what I do! Don’t open them. Let them stack up as you earn them. I have 10 hours of Rocket League on my Nintendo Switch. And I believe I have several loot-boxes stored up under my account. I have no intention of opening them. Ever. Why? Because I refuse to support them. I would much rather pay $1.99 and get the Batmobile Skin and a special explosion and sound to go with it, than pay $1 and get some random skin or car that I have no attachment to whatsoever.

And then there is the issue of kids playing these games. Yes, you have to be 17 or 18, or whatever age to buy an M rated game, but a lot of those games are starting to include loot-boxes in them as well. And guess what? Once those games get inside the house, the kids can buy points cards or use their debit card and purchase loot-boxes to their heart’s content. And there is no one to really stop them. When their parents look at their account, all they see is an Xbox Live charge, or a Playstation Network charge. This is a real concern about (young) children starting to gamble. When they ask their kids about it, the kids say “Oh, it’s just extra content” or “I needed to buy it to make me more powerful”. Is it gambling? Not in the eyes of the developers of the games.

So after this has been a hot discussion, that really began with Star Wars Battlefront, the ESA and the ESRB are both now involved. From what I can tell, they have decided to put a warning label on all games that include micro-transactions. From the conversations I am hearing, this will include, but not be limited to season passes, expansion packs, loot-boxes, extra characters, skins, etc. The interesting part, in my eyes you ask? When the ESRB rates a game, for example Skyrim on Nintendo Switch, there is a black box on the front of the case that say “Rated M for Mature 17+”. Why is it rated that way? Turn over the game case to find a black box in the same designated spot, to find the following “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol”. Under the new rule for a micro-transaction warning, there will be no further descriptors of what purchases can be done. This means games like Minecracft will need a warning label on the front, but you won’t know it is because you can buy extra skins, texture packs, or even fully explorable worlds. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will have the same warning label because it has 2 content expansions and a season pass. Interestingly, though, because all of Splatoon’s content is free for all players, they will need no such warning.

What bothers me about this, is how vague it is. The ESA and ESRB are claiming it is because most parents don’t understand the difference between a loot-box and an expansion pass. So because of that, the people that are designing the art for the game are the ones that are being punished. Now nearly every game will have to have a console name on it, an ESRB rating, and a micro-transaction warning. What’s next?  They seem to think these boxes are infinite in size and have tons of real estate for random marketing.In other countries in Europe, for example Belgium, they are already working on a ban of loot-boxes in game. Their gambling authority says this is just a way of getting young teens to gambling. Although the law is not concrete yet, it will probably roll out this year and prohibit any game to sell loot-boxes. If you want to play online gambling to win some cool things, you could just got an real online casino in stead of buying loot-boxes. When you life in South Africa a site like https://www.onlinecasino-southafrica.co.za could be an option.

What it boils down to is taking an interest in what your children are doing. Spend some time with your kids and get to the point where you understand their hobbies. Who knows? You might find you actually enjoy it and play some games with them. There are tons of great games that families can enjoy together. And most things are more fun when you’re doing them with other people than when you’re doing them by yourself.

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