Published: Fri, October 13, 2017
IT | By Lester Massey

Loot boxes can not be classified as gambling, according to the ESRB

Loot boxes can not be classified as gambling, according to the ESRB

While some might like the idea of unlocking random stuff, it's a pain in the neck for those looking for one specific item.

Speaking with Kotaku via email, an ESRB spokesperson stated that the "ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling". Is dropping a tenner on red and letting it ride the same as spending $10 on a Loot Box and getting common items? Given their randomly generated nature, some like John "Total Biscuit" Bain believe the ESRB should officially qualify loot boxes as a form of gambling.

The star also called out game developers who do not release their loot box odds, arguing that adults who play such games deserve clarity on the chance of receiving a decent item when they shell out for a loot box. 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.

Interestingly enough, the ESRB does have gambling tags for specific games including "Real and Simulating Gambling".

Players might buy several loot boxes within the game, then gamble the loot they scored to try and improve their haul. 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 games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with United Kingdom law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social gaming.


Regardless, loot box systems like this - systems that give random outcomes in exchange for money - still trigger those same feelings that make more traditional gambling appealing.

In many of today's video games, players find items they need within the game world, such as weapons, health and money.

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. This includes titles such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Forza Motorsport 7, and Destiny 2.

ESRB does have a label for in-game purchases, but with optional downloadable content on almost every game that's hitting the market these days, that covers nearly every modern game.

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