Tuesday, 24 October, 2017

ESRB Says It Doesn't See 'Loot Boxes' As Gambling

ESRB loot boxes Loot boxes don't count as gambling in the ESRB's books
Velma Reese | 13 October, 2017, 03:57

Loot boxes have been a hot topic in gaming lately.

The most public controversy surround loot boxes are the possibility that its inclusion could diminish gameplay by introducing a harder, more time consuming grinding element or perhaps even offset the balance of multiplayer by introducing a pay-to-win effect.

Kotaku first reported the ESRB's stance on loot boxes. We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. For now, players will have to put up with the predatory and addictive nature of loot boxes. With more and more gamers voicing their displeasure at how this little feature is now used as a microtransaction tool, expect more gamers to hate it in future games. The ESRB made a statement yesterday about this, and today we have a similar statement from PEGI, the European ratings board.

However, so far, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which decides which gaming content is appropriate for different aged audiences, doesn't see a problem.

For a game to be labeled as real gambling, it must involve some type of wagering using actual money.

Loot boxes have been a part of games for a long time, and they usually go like this: Players randomly receive a loot box or earn a loot box through playing a multiplayer game, then either open it for free or pay a small amount of money for a key to unlock it. So isn't the virtuality of an item just serving as a loophole? A system where it's possible to get nothing new or useful for your money sounds like gambling to me.

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However, many of these virtual items sell for hundreds of dollars on platforms like the Steam Marketplace.

Most of the triple-A releases in the past few months have contained loot boxes, from Destiny 2 to Middle-earth: Shadow of War to the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront 2. As such, they can't make any sort of designations against loot boxes one way or another.

Games which include a loot box element need a gambling license, and the industry is closely regulated.

The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017.

A spokesperson for the ESRB told Kotaku that loot boxes do not qualify under either category.

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