Microtransactions and loot boxes seem to be a sensitive matter these days. After the recent appearance of such features in games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II many started raging about how players shouldn’t have to spend more money on a $60 video game and there was a statement “flying in the air” that loot boxes should be seen as gambling. ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) aka the organization that rates video games depending on how offensive and gory they may be, stated that as they see it loot boxes are not considered gambling.
As an ESRB spokesperson told Kotaku:
ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. 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). 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. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.
Apart from the M for Mature, E for Everyone and the Gore, Nudity etc. labels, ESRB also implements gambling categories named Ream and Simulated Gambling. “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.”
Over the past few years, loot box systems have been added to almost every major multiplayer title, from Overwatch to League of Legends, to Heroes of the Storm and more recently Destiny 2. Can microtransactions like these really be called gambling?
As it seems TotalBiscuit’s recent video talking about loot boxes and gambling seem to have startled the ESRB and thankfully they stroke back. What do you think? Should loot boxes be considered gambling? Is it such a big deal for players who spend more money to be a little stronger than you?