Loot Boxes & Gambling – There’s Smoke but Is There Actually Fire
Video games today make money in a variety of ways. Aside from the money made by purchasing a title. Games have additional sources of revenue including paid DLC, tie-in merchandise, and microtransactions to name a few. One form of transaction that’s drawn a lot of attention lately has been loot boxes. Critics have claimed that loot boxes represent a form of in-game gambling. This has sparked a debate in many countries regarding loot boxes. Centered how they should be handled legally, especially regarding young children that play many of these games.
Loot boxes and gambling where there’s smoke there’s often fire
The concept behind a loot box is simple. A box contains items that you can use in-game. These in-game items can include clothing, character skins, emotes, and other cosmetic items. These items are often graded on a rarity scale, with rarer dropping less often. This practice forces players to buy more boxes in the hopes of getting the item that they want. Allowing the company to make more money in the process.
A Slippery Slope
While critics have taken up arms against the practice. Video game institutions such as the ESRB, have been hesitant to label the practice as gambling. Regardless of which side that you come down on. It’s easy to see that this is a slippery slope, simply because children are involved.
I think it’s worth pointing out that there are some differences between purchasing a loot box and putting a quarter in a slot machine. A slot machine is a beast of chance, you put your money in, pull the lever and hope for a good spin. You are, however, guaranteed absolutely nothing. With the exception that it’s guaranteed that you’ll spend money.
When you purchase a loot box, however, it usually comes with the promise of getting items that you can use in-game. The catch-22 is that the items are random. So, while you’ll get items that can be used in-game there’s no promise that what you get will be what you’re looking for.
This isn’t a problem for well-rounded adults who know what they’re getting into. Children, on the other hand, are a different story. Many children that play these games that only understand the concept in a broader sense. Meaning they understand that they can buy a loot box and get an item that their friend has. They fail to understand that they’re not guaranteed to get the specific item that they’re after. This prompts them to purchase more loot boxes in search of the item.
Like I said it’s a bit of a slippery slope especially once children are a part of the equation.
This Is a Bit Like a CCG
The practice of buying loot boxes is a bit like buying a booster pack of a collectible card game (CCG). If you’ve never played a CCG like Magic the Gathering. They employ a practice like loot boxes, called booster packs. They work much like a loot box, you purchase a pack and get an assortment of 15 cards.
The cards are varied by rarity common, uncommon, rare, very rare, and mythic rare. You’re guaranteed a combination of commons and uncommon and one rare. The rare can be a normal rare, a very rare, or a mythic rare, with mythic rare being the most elusive. Much like a loot box everything you get in a booster pack is something that you can use in-game.
Yes, there is a high degree of luck involved in getting what you want. What some would call winning. Yes, you’re taking a chance when you buy these items you are rolling the dice on the items that you’ll receive.
This Is a Discussion That’s Far from Over
This is a situation that has no easy solution. While it’s easy to draw parallels between loot boxes and transactions from other games. That doesn’t make the situations the same. When situations such as this arise it’s best that people have a conversation as opposed to rushing to rash action. This is a conversation that needs to take place between government officials, game developers, and parents. That’s the only way that this situation can be resolved. Because when it comes to protecting children that’s worth a conversation.
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