As it turns out, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) thinks that buying loot boxes is not gambling. But the ratings board does not agree. 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. One of the most severe concerns was that these loot boxes could be considered gambling and are accessible to those under the required age, causing the ESRB to weigh in.
Well, it seems the video game industry can breathe easy for now.
In the end, players are the ones who lose.
Loot boxes have been a part of games for a long time, and they usually go like this: Players randomly receive a loot box or earn a loot box through playing a multiplayer game, then either open it for free or pay a small amount of money for a key to unlock it.
In recent years, console and computer games have started including loot box purchases.
"Lootboxes and the purchasing of in game virtual items are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant United Kingdom regulations". A system where it's possible to get nothing new or useful for your money sounds like gambling to me.
It's fast becoming the reality that loot boxes aren't all that it's cracked up to be. While the items being wagered and bartered have no real monetary value, gamers put a price of thousands of dollars on the most desirable items.
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.
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The outcome of opening a loot box is certainly uncertain, but ESRB doesn't consider it to be "real gambling". Skin gambling is also classed as a legitimate gambling activity. "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". This is because, in gambling, participants run the risk of walking away with nothing.
Loot boxes are a hot topic right now, with Middle-earth: Shadow of War and its unnecessary microtransaction push at the very centre of the debate. Loot boxes, to them, are more akin to trading cards and collectible packs that always deliver some assortment of items, whether or not these items are the ones expected by the player.
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