When we think of Loot Boxes in video games some names pop up in our minds. Companies like Electronic Arts (EA), 2K Games, Activision, and more are known for predatory loot boxes. The situation with Loot Boxes got so bad that Govt had to get involved and not just in one country. Belgium and the Netherlands have banned them from the video games. EA appeared in front of the UK parliament to defend their position on these mechanics.
From popular Loot Boxes are “Suprise mechanics” phrase came from hearing. Everyone had a laugh, pretty sure EA had one too. But the situation is about getting serious. UK Parliament has announced prob into these “surprise mechanics.” They want more evidence, research, studies, to determine if there is a link between gambling and this form of monetization.
Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries stood in front of the parliament and defended loot boxes. But asked for more evidence and studies to be conducted. According to James, Loot Boxes aren’t gambling but if the evidence presented to her she will take action.
The fact that other European countries have taken action I think is much more to do with them taking their offline gambling laws online, and our gambling laws are different.
I would also contest the assumption that loot boxes are gambling. I don’t think the evidence I’ve read from your committee’s hearings would support that assumption either. Loot boxes are a means of people purchasing items, skins, to enhance their gaming experience, not through an expectation of an additional financial reward. And also, more importantly, they can’t be traded offline for money. So I think there are big differences, and I don’t think really it is true to say loot boxes are gambling.
If evidence were presented to me that loot boxes are a gateway to problem gambling, then I would be concerned by that. I think that with the gaming community, you’re talking about large numbers of young people — by no means exclusively young, of course. Gaming is a pleasure enjoyed by all age groups. But with particular reference to young people, I think we have to vigilant and if evidence does emerge that loot boxes can be a gateway to problem gambling, then we need to take that seriously and we do need to take some action.
But I don’t think the evidence is really there yet. There are not many studies — that’s not to say we shouldn’t be initiating more research… [But] you need the evidence as a justification for taking action, particularly if you’re talking about regulation
What Are Loot Boxes and Why They Are a Problem
They aren’t something new in the gaming industry but they came to the limelight with Overwatch. Blizzard added cosmetic loot boxes that feature voice lines, avatars, skins, in-game coins. You can not choose which character gets the reward, it is completely random. You could be playing Reaper but the box may drop something for Soldier 76. It also observed that the character you play gets fewer rewards which eventually makes the player buy them. This isn’t confirmed by any means but this is an ongoing rumor.
Gaming community equates these mechanics to gambling. You open the box and get a random reward which you may or may not like. It doesn’t matter if the loot boxes are free or paid, rewards are random. It is very similar to slot machines. Players need to open multiple loot boxes to get what they want. Most end up spending money on loot boxes to get the reward they want. Publishers do not share the exact number to show the likelihood of getting certain items.
Gamers consider random rewards from loot boxes gambling. There are studies that support this argument. But there are also studies that show no link between gambling and loot boxes.
This is the primary reason why Margot James wants more evidence before regulation.