Loot Boxes As Gambling – Again Debate Centered Around Video Games
Loot boxes have been in the news since late last year. When news began circulating that many markets were considering classifying loot boxes as gambling. Here we are at the end of April and the debate and legislation haven’t stopped. As with most political debates that involve video games, no end appears to be in sight.
Loot boxes as gambling it seems that video games are meant to be a target
The concept of loot boxes isn’t new as they’ve been prevalent in free-to-play games for years. The idea of loot boxes has always evoked mixed emotions from gamers. There was generally a sense of understanding that loot boxes allowed these free-to-play titles a way to make money. In recent years, however, large publishers have incorporated loot boxes in games that aren’t free to play.
You could argue that this took the practice mainstream. Now enough attention has been brought to the practice that those in power have taken notice. Now the practice of loot boxes finds itself in the crosshairs of a most dangerous adversary, politicians. While many people seem to have mixed emotions about political involvement in this matter. Most arguments seem to be aimed at protecting children and given the number of children who play games it’s a fair point.
Some claim we’ve been here before
Now that some are labeling loot boxes as gambling. I’ve spoken to people who claim that it’s no different from how arcades used to operate. It’s true that once upon a time you could earn tickets that you could then trade for items available at the arcade. While I can see how easily one can draw the parallels between arcade tickets and loot boxes.
It’s not the same thing, while there is multiple difference between the two practices. There’s one glaring difference that negates the argument entirely. That’s the fact that there was nothing random about prizes at an arcade. All items were labeled with how many tickets it would cost to get them. Didn’t earn enough tickets for something? That’s alright just keep saving your tickets until you do have enough to get what you want.
There was nothing random about what you would be getting. Which seems to be the big thing that’s working against loot boxes now. Much like how collectible card/miniature games work, buy a booster pack which contains a random assortment of cards/miniatures. Of course, the big difference here is that those games are sold on the premise of collecting cards/minis. Of course, many collectible games also have a secondary singles market. Allowing you to buy exactly whatever it may be that you’re missing from your collection.
Fact is, despite what some would claim we haven’t been here before, not really. We may have gotten right up against the line in the past but never like this. Of course, none of the other instances listed above has received the type of mainstream attention that loot boxes have either.
This is only a AAA problem
Some seem to think that potential legislation will only effect studios like EA, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. That indie games would be exempt from any laws that may be passed. If you believe that then you would be wrong. Should legislation be passed that classifies loot boxes as gambling, then that legislation isn’t going to be limited to big companies.
It will encompass all games that use loot boxes in the way that the legislation would target. The chance that politicians would distinguish between AAA studios and indie studios is pretty much zero. So, if you think it won’t affect you because you don’t play games from large studios, or because you’re an indie developer you’d be wrong.
Getting here & moving forward
It’s funny when you consider just how long it took before people decided that loot boxes were a bad thing. While gamers have debated about them for years. The world outside of video games had always considered them a gamer’s problem. While eventually, they would’ve garnered the attention of politicians.
That process was perhaps sped up by the controversy surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II. It’s fair to say the public outcry regarding how EA was making use of loot boxes. And the media coverage that accompanied it put it in the crosshairs of politicians. While it’s unfair to place all the blame on the Battlefront II controversy. It’s not unfair to say that is certainly didn’t help any. Chances are we were always heading in this direction when it came to loot boxes. All the controversy did is help get us here sooner rather than later.
Now that we’re here in the middle of this debate, it’s important that we figure out where to go next. For starters, many countries have yet to pass any form of legislation classifying loot boxes as gambling. In fact, some countries such as the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, have already declared that it’s not gambling.
Other countries have their own laws regarding loot boxes, such as China. Where the odds of a loot box must be publicly disclosed by the publisher. It looks likely that there won’t be a solution that’s adopted everywhere. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that gambling is already handled differently pretty much everywhere already.
What’s going to be important for people moving forward is rather or not this is handled properly where they live. It’s also important that a proper discussion takes place between the politicians and developers. So that reasonable laws can be passed, laws that protect everyone and not just a way for politicians to shore up their polling numbers. Regardless of the outcome, there is still a long road ahead before this issue is truly resolved.
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