Modern video games which include paid-for loot boxes could be exposing young players to gambling risks, popular gaming YouTuber John Bain has warned.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which classifies games in the US and Canada, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe through its Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system, have said that loot boxes do not constitute gambling because players are sure to get something in exchange for money. When reached for comment a representative stated the following... 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. 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.
Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. Including these elements in games is somewhat toxic to developers and publishers, since they will get automatically rated as Adult Only content and won't be sold in most major stores. If a guarantee of in-game content is what differentiates loot boxes from gambling, what about when you open up a box and find nothing new in it?
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China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have all taken action to regulate skin gambling and loot box trading.
The outcome of opening a loot box is certainly uncertain, but ESRB doesn't consider it to be "real gambling".
Players have raised concerns about the use of loot boxes in recent games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, specifically over the worry that the gameplay benefits of loot boxes could veer too far toward a "pay-to-win" strategy. "Real Gambling" is any sort of wagering involving real cash, while "Simulated Gambling" means that the "player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency". But it seems that ESRB only counts it as gambling if the players have a chance of not getting anything from the loot box. Loot boxes are an entirely different beast.