Are we facing a loot box ban in games?


With Star Wars Battlefront 2 just being released, there has been a lot of heat on loot boxes and whether or not these should be considered gambling. We might even be facing a total ban on these boxes.
Header for loot box ban article

Make ESRB declare loot boxes as gambling

Loot box

This is the name of the loot boxes petition that was raised about a month ago on the change.org website, which is “the world’s platform for change”. A guy was raising serious concerns about loot boxes falling under the definition of gambling. He mentioned that they fit Google’s description of gambling perfectly, which is:

Take risky action in the hope of a desired result

He also gave an example of dictionary.com’s definition of gambling:

To stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance

As you may already know, loot boxes are a way to get cosmetic skins and other items in video games. These can be purchased for real money, with the reward always being randomly determined. It’s a money making model that has become very common for game developers to use the past couple of years. You’ll see it in many different titles, including eSport games such as CS:GO and Overwatch. The latest addition is Electronic Art’s Star Wars Battlefront 2, which seems to have been fueling the fire a bit too much.


ESRB assigns age and content ratings for video games

If you’ve ever bought a video game, you’ve probably seen the ESRB logo printed on it. ESRB stands for “entertainment software rating board” and is a company deciding what age and content ratings video games should have. This enforces the video game industry to follow certain advertising and marketing guidelines.

The loot boxes petition that was raised wants ESRB to have games where it’s possible to purchase these to be rated as “Adult only”. This is currently not the case as ESRB doesn’t consider loot boxes to be gambling. They’ve had the following to say about it:

While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want).

This has been heavily criticized as with this logic playing on a slot machine wouldn’t be considered gambling if you were just guaranteed to win a small portion of your stake on every spin. The petition raised has not only resulted in tens of thousands of supporters, but a ban on loot boxes has also been mentioned by Belgium’s minister of justice.


Koen geens on loot boxesBelgium’s gaming commission investigating loot boxes

About a week ago, Belgium’s Gaming Commission announced that an investigation into whether or not loot boxes should be considered as gambling had begun. Although this investigation is still on-going, the minister of justice, Koen Geens has already expressed his concerns about loot boxes and where he stands on the subject. He had the following to say about it:

Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.

He also mentioned that he would like to completely ban the option of being able to purchase loot boxes in games and will certainly try to do so.


Chris lee Hawaii on loot boxes

The senator of Hawaii is also speaking up against loot boxes

Chris Lee, a US politician representing the state of Hawaii has recently expressed his concerns about loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2. In a press conference he said that the game was nothing but a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money. He also stated the following:

This is something we need to address to ensure that particularly kids who are underage, who are not psychologically and emotionally mature enough to gamble–which is why gambling is prohibited under [the age of] 21–are protected from being trapped into these cycles which have compelled many folks to spend thousands of dollars in gaming fees online.

Although he didn’t literally say it, Chris Lee also touched the subject of a somewhat possible ban on these loot boxes:

We’re looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit sale of these games to folks who are underage in order to protect these families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games. We’ve been talking with several other states as well [and] legislators there are looking at the same thing. I think this is an appropriate time to make sure these issues are addressed before this becomes the norm for every new game.




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