ESRB says video game loot boxes don't qualify as 'gambling,' despite similarities
Oct 13 2017 by Joanne Wise
The upcoming game Star Wars Battlefront II and the recently released Middle-Earth: Shadow of War both feature loot box systems that offer players improvements on their weapons and abilities, meaning that loot boxes have a chance to give you something that gives you an advantage in the game. The ESRB's criteria considers real gambling to involve the wagering of real cash, while simulated gambling means that players can gamble without betting or wagering actual money.
Contrary to popular opinion, lootboxes apparently aren't exactly gambling, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) won't designate them as such. And it's true that players can participate in these loot boxes similar to Hearthstone's card packs without spending a penny of real-world cash.
Only a handful of Asian nations have classed loot boxes as gambling, though the United States has considered legislating skin gambling: an industry fueled by loot box buys.
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The Gambling Commission draws the line here, of course, and blames the myriad websites that exist to promote and foster the exchange of rare video game items for real life currency. It's not even up to rating boards as to what is classed as gambling, as "this is defined by national gambling laws", Bosmon continues. A system where it's possible to get nothing new or useful for your money sounds like gambling to me. They inherently prey on the player's need for reward, prompting them to take a chance at instant gratification which can in turn cause addiction in the same way that gambling does, all the while enabling them to spend real money.
Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others.
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. The spokesperson also said: "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)".
Skin gambling is not prohibited as a betting activity and loot boxes can be traded within video games.