ESRB Says It Doesn't See 'Loot Boxes' As Gambling


Loot boxes and microtransactions are a huge point of contention within the gaming community no matter what game they are implemented in.

Players have the option to buy more loot boxes in these games with real money, and the contents are random, so one could say that players are gambling on what they're going to get out of these loot boxes. It's just sort of like gambling because customers always get something for their money, no matter how awful or worthless.

Following the ESRB defense of the loot box systems in AAA games, stating that they were not gambling since you get a reward regardless of how much you spend, UKIE offers a more diplomatic response. This is because, in gambling, participants run the risk of walking away with nothing. Can their inclusion be classed as a form of gambling? According to a statement from the board issued to Kotaku, loot boxes don't equate to digital gambling as players are guaranteed to receive some form of in-game content - whatever it might be - inside the box with their purchase.

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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. 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.

Games which are rated for teens and younger children often include an option to pay real money for the chance to win in-game items, and this very modern form of monetizing additional content is falling through a regulation gap in the USA and Europe. This includes titles such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Forza Motorsport 7, and Destiny 2. But the ratings board does not agree. A couple of games have put this poor practice in the spotlight recently - igniting a debate on whether loot boxes, especially ones that have the potential to effect gameplay and can be purchased with real money - should be considered gambling. But for now, parents and concerned role models will need to just limit exposure as much as they deem fit.

Skin gambling is not prohibited as a betting activity and loot boxes can be traded within video games. I have to admit, I much preferred earning an item through hardship and wearing it as a badge of honour rather than purchasing it or feeling lucky that I managed to receive it despite my random chances.