Tag Archives: Loot

ESRB Game Ratings Will Now Call Out Loot Boxes

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Many of today’s biggest games feature loot box gameplay mechanics that critics claim are little different than gambling. Now, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has announced it will take loot boxes a bit more seriously. Going forward, titles that rely on these microtransactions will get a special warning on the label right next to the main ESRB rating. 

Microtransactions are nothing new in gaming. That idea stretches back to the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which tried to upsell gamers on cosmetic horse armor for $ 5. While gamers mocked Bethesda for the move, this would become a common element of game monetization in the intervening years. Today, popular games like Overwatch, Star Wars: Battlefront, and FIFA have leaned heavily on randomized loot boxes to make publishers more money. You can’t just buy the modern equivalent of horse armor in these games. You have to open random crates until you get the stuff you want. 

The ESRB already included a notice of “In-Game Purchases” on its rating labels (added following the Battlefront 2 fiasco), ensuring parents knew which games encourage kids to spend more money. The new labels will include another line that reads “(Includes Random Items)” on games with loot box mechanics. Many gamers and developers believe that additional warning is necessary because of the way random loot boxes prime players to spend more money. It’s like spinning a roulette wheel — just one more spin, and maybe you’ll hit the jackpot with a rare piece of equipment or character. 

To get the new enhanced rating, a game needs to offer digital items for purchase with real money. The rewards also need to be obscured from the player before purchase. If either of these criteria is not met, the game doesn’t get the loot box warning. For example, a game might have randomized loot rewards, but it’s fine if you can only earn them by playing the game rather than spending money. On the flip side, games could have the option to buy things with real money, but they’d only get the “In-Game Purchases” label provided the rewards are not random. That could include things like expansion packs, new levels, and equipment. 

The new labeling system will help parents make smarter choices, but it could be a boon to under-informed gamers, too. You might be fine with a game that lets you spend money, but the pseudo-gambling mechanics of loot boxes are another story. You won’t have to research the monetization system of every game — just look for the “random items” rating and you’ll know there are loot boxes.

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Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo Will Require Loot Box Drop Rate Disclosures

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Loot boxes have been controversial since they were introduced. That controversy was turbo-charged back in 2017, when EA and DICE decided to make the entire economy of Star Wars Battlegrounds II entirely dependent on randomized loot box drops and insanely long grinds. That particular shameful cash grab may have exploded in the company’s face like the Death Star over Endor, but it kicked off an investigation into how loot boxes work across the globe. The FTC held a workshop on gaming loot boxes on Wednesday, August 7, to discuss issues surrounding this method of dispensing in-game loot. Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo announced a new initiative at said workshop — one that will require all games published on their platforms to disclose the chance of receiving rewards.

Polygon reports that Michael Warnecke, the ESA’s (Entertainment Software Association) chief counsel of tech policy, made the announcement at the workshop today.

I’m pleased to announce this morning that Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have indicated to ESA a commitment to new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platforms. Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features, and it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.

Publishers have similarly rallied to state they’ll support the initiative, including Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco, Bethesda, Bungie, EA, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., and Wizards of the Coast. All of these announcements and statements, however, apply to consoles — not PCs. Valve updated DOTA 2 to show loot box disclosure data last year, but it hasn’t made disclosing this information mandatory for games on its platform. Neither have smaller game stores like Epic or GoG, at least not yet.

Battlefront-Pic

Use the First National Bank, Luke!

The goal is to roll this program out in 2020, but no timeline has been published. The goal seems to be to head off any effort at government regulation, similarly to how the ESRB was formed to avoid regulation of video game content. But simply publishing the chances of earning a reward may not be enough to head off accusations that loot boxes are gambling, and it may not be as clear-cut as a ratings system, either.

Here’s a simple example of what I mean. While reasonable people may differ about what constitutes acceptable nudity, a game either contains or does not contain naked humans. If you have a 5 percent chance of getting an “Epic” quality loot drop from a loot box, is that a chance to get any epic item, or the chance that you’ll get an epic item you don’t already have? If you earn a loot box in a specific game mode, will the loot be related to that game mode? Are people spending an in-game currency to win cosmetic items, or are they paying real money for random gear rolls that will impact their in-game performance? Are these percentages communicated in-game, when players are on the loot box purchase screen, or are they hidden in an old blog post that’s buried four links deep off the game’s main page? Does the game allow you to earn the currency with which you buy loot boxes in-game at a reasonable rate, or does it dispense it like pre-haunting Scrooge handing out Bob Crachit’s salary? Are the loot boxes being marketed aggressively to children as part of a children’s game, or are they in a title intended for adults who presumably understand something about the reality of credit card purchases? Are the items you win from loot boxes resellable on a market for real money, or are they locked to your specific character?

Readers and experts broadly agree that how these issues are handled has an impact on whether or not loot boxes cross the line between outright gambling versus an entertainment mechanism. A game with cosmetic loot box items that awards a modest number of crates through gameplay with the option to buy more is acceptable to a lot of people. A game like Battlefront II’s original incarnation (the actual game today has an entirely different and more standard loot distribution system) chained in-game performance entirely to random loot crates. The internet’s response? Convulsive rage. And while the internet’s rage spasms have a definite problematic side, gamers weren’t wrong to feel as if EA was planning to take advantage of them. It absolutely was.

Responses like this may take the wind from proposals to regulate loot boxes, at least in the United States, but just publishing statistics on your chances of getting a particular drop won’t answer the larger question of whether loot boxes constitute gambling or not. Honestly, I think that’s because the answer is “It depends.” In some cases, loot crates are basically an optional way to achieve a particular look. In others, they’ve been critical to succeeding in the title. It’s hard to argue that combining pay-to-win mechanics with randomized drops you pay real money to get isn’t very close to gambling, especially if the rare contents of the loot box can be sold for a substantial amount of real money in a market. At that point, a new digital hat is basically the equivalent of a Pick 5 card. Applying a rating to a video game is also a somewhat subjective endeavor, but it’s at least a subjective endeavor with some objective standards around concepts like nudity and foul language, which either do or do not exist in a game.

The question of whether loot crates constitute gambling and, if so, under which circumstances, will need to be fleshed out in greater detail — and hopefully we’ll see Valve, Epic, GoG, and other distributors take the same stance on mandatory chance disclosures. The fact that EA attempted to defend its loot box mechanism as “quite ethical surprise mechanics” earlier this year doesn’t make us optimistic that the video game industry actually understands how much players loathe these kinds of systems.

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EA: They Aren’t Loot Boxes, They’re ‘Quite Ethical’ ‘Surprise Mechanics’

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Back in 2017, EA managed to single-handedly slow the infection of loot crate mechanics taking over AAA games. Star Wars Battlefront II went from a new hoped-for sequel to a towering heap of bantha fodder in a matter of weeks once gamers discovered exactly what kind of loot system EA had designed.

Not only was Battlefront II’s progression almost entirely chained to loot crates, but there was also virtually no way to earn anything specific to the class or game types you actually wanted to play. Loot crate rewards were completely randomized, unlike in previous games, where playing a class and/or using specific abilities typically earned you experience in that class or improved your skills. There was no guarantee that the loot you received would even be related to the game modes you wanted to play, which meant you might spend 8 hours in starfighter dogfights and receive only infantry upgrades.

Players who refused to play the loot crate game and wanted to collect heroes instead were still screwed; pre-launch estimates suggested it could take 40 hours to unlock a single hero. The company initially doubled down on virtually every aspect of its hated strategy, before Disney literally intervened at the 11th hour to prevent the game from swan diving into the Death Star’s reactor core. Even after EA removed the pay-to-win model hours before the game launched, overall sales were below expectations.

Given this kind of history, you might expect EA to be a little humble when testifying in front of a government panel investigating whether loot crates are dangerously close to prohibited in-game gambling mechanics. You would be wrong. According to the company that turned the phrase “loot box” into a curse word, its blatant attempts to wring the player base like a dishrag are “surprise mechanics.” And they’re “quite ethical” according to EA.

Battlefront-Pic

Not pictured: Ethics

Now, in fairness, calling something a “surprise mechanic” does not imply anyone will enjoy the surprise they are receiving. One of the differences between being a child and an adult is that children expect to receive surprises like toys, candy, or a trip to McDonald’s, whereas adults expect to receive surprises like medical bills and home appliance failures.

I was, for example, quite surprised last month when I took my car for routine maintenance and my mechanic informed me the oil had gone missing. As “surprise mechanics” go, that one was a doozy. On her way to pick me up from the AMD E3 event, my fiancée was surprised by a deer striking the rear driver’s side quarter panel of her car. Sadly, the deer didn’t drop any alternative currency or rare items, unless you count fur and excrement among your most valued possessions. (Who am I to judge? Have you seen EA crafting requirements lately?)

battlefront

Most heroes were initially going to be locked behind significant grinds to even play them.

According to Kerry Hopkins, VP of Legal at Electronic Arts, loot boxes are most comparable to Kinder Eggs, Hatchimals, or LOL Surprise. When asked if it considered loot boxes to be ethical, Hopkins replied:

We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA, of course, is our big one, our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people…

We do agree with the UK gambling commission, the Australian gambling commission, and many other gambling commissions that they aren’t gambling, and we also disagree that there’s evidence that shows it leads to gambling. Instead we think it’s like many other products that people enjoy in a healthy way, and like the element of surprise.

(Hopkins’ testimony can be seen here, starting at 15:43:15.)

It’s entirely predictable that EA would try for this kind of dodge, but arguing that loot boxes are equivalent to simple “surprise” toys like Kinder eggs ignores huge, practical differences in how loot boxes are implemented in games.

Obviously the details can vary depending on how the game is structured, but locking core components of gameplay, necessary upgrades, or rare items required to compete with upper-tier players behind random mechanics that require players to buy an unknown number of loot crates for real money (or to grind for that same currency at painfully slow rates as an incentive to spend money) is not remotely equivalent to handing a small child a surprise toy. That’s before we address the question of resale markets or the idea that rare skins you can get from loot boxes may have a substantial cash value. In games with an accessible resale market, the idea that loot crates aren’t gambling gets even harder to defend. The goods inside may be virtual instead of physical, but that’s irrelevant to the question of whether or not they have value.

The idea that players engage with these mechanics because they love them, however, doesn’t survive first contact with the enemy. Loot boxes come in basically two flavors: “Bonus” or cosmetic content that you don’t really need to interact with in any way to play or beat the game, and necessary power-ups, skills, or items that are functional requirements if you don’t want to grind for an insane amount of time. Purely cosmetic loot boxes that you buy at a regular rate with the currency you earn easily don’t really push many people’s buttons. Original BFII-style loot distribution that chains your entire progress through the title to random unlocks are loathed by virtually everyone. 

The idea that EA has designed these systems to provide Kinder Joy-style bursts of dopamine out of an innocent desire to do good for humanity is a joke. Whether they are formally ruled equivalent to gambling or not, loot crates are a financial profit center. It’s no accident that EA debuted the system that it did in BFII after first promising to overhaul how it monetized its open-world multiplayer combat titles — it intended to replace money from sales of DLC with money from sales of loot crates. It designed its entire game loot system around loot crates for this exact reason.

The only good thing about the Battlefront II debacle is that it seems to have scared other publishers from following suit. The degree to which loot boxes represent gambling is a difficult question that may well vary from game to game. The idea that EA was simply attempting to deliver a little fun and joy to its players with some innocent “surprise mechanics” doesn’t deserve the paper it isn’t printed on.

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East Congo villagers kill Ebola health worker, loot clinic

A mob in eastern Congo killed an Ebola health worker and looted a clinic, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, underscoring a breakdown in public trust that is hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus.

Attacks on treatment centres by armed groups and mistrust among residents who view the disease as a conspiracy have become major impediments to containing Congo’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak.

The hemorrhagic fever has so far killed 1,281 people, according to the latest ministry figures, and shows no signs of slowing its spread, with dozens of new cases a week.

The ministry said that on Saturday residents of the village of Vusahiro, in the Mabalako district, “rose up and attacked the local Ebola response team, made up of village residents who were trained to carry out certain response activities.”

A hygienist from the infection prevention and control team died of his injuries when he was transferred to hospital, it said.

Responders, healthcare workers, and community members are increasingly subjected to threats from armed groups in hotspots such as Katwa and Butembo, the World Health Organization says, complicating efforts to contain Ebola.

U.N. officials say that stopping targeted attacks on health workers requires untangling deep-rooted political problems in eastern Congo. Dialogue has led to a recent reduction in large-scale attacks on health workers, WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

Still, an uphill battle remains. Between January and early May, there were 42 attacks on health facilities, with 85 workers either injured or killed, according to WHO figures from May 3.

Health workers have been attacked six times in the last eight days, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the closing session of the annual World Health Assembly in Geneva on Tuesday.

“These attacks demonstrate that the ongoing Ebola outbreak is more than a health crisis,” he said. “Ending it takes a coordinated and strengthened effort across the U.N. system…with strong leadership from the government.”

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The FTC Will Hold a Public Loot Box Workshop on August 7

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It’s become depressingly common for video games to implement loot boxes as a monetization scheme, but gamers are increasingly up in arms about it. Last year, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) pledged to investigate the use of loot boxes in games, and now we know how it’ll start. On August 7th, the FTC will hold a public workshop on loot boxes, and you’ll be able to watch it live.

No one has ever been pleased that loot boxes existed in games, but the uproar was confined to gaming communities until EA messed with Star Wars. The beta test for Star Wars Battlefront II revealed a loot box system that made hero characters incredibly costly to unlock. EA took so much heat online that it had to temporarily remove loot boxes and revamp the in-game economy.

Battlefront II isn’t alone — loot boxes are featured in games like Apex Legends, Overwatch, FIFA, and more. Some countries have taken steps to limit the use of loot boxes, which many gamers consider akin to gambling. For example, EA had to remove loot boxes from its FIFA games in Belgium.

The FTC is tasked with protecting consumers, so it’s the best hope for those who want to see limits imposed on loot boxes. The August 7 workshop, titled “Inside the Game: Unlocking the Consumer Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes,” will stream live on the FTC website, and you’ll be able to submit comments on the topic to the FTC through October 11. The workshop will cover the history and mechanics behind loot boxes, research examining consumer behavior in the context of loot boxes, and the way these features are marketed to consumers.

FTC-DC1

Those who care about the issue of loot boxes won’t find much new information in the workshop, but it could provide hints about the FTC’s intentions. It may also bring the issue to the attention of people who can do something about it. The agency is still open to suggestions on workshop topics through June 7.

We can’t know what the outcome of this workshop will be. Perhaps the FTC will continue investigating and decide on common sense rules to protect consumers from the more manipulative aspects of loot boxes. On the other hand, the workshop might be the last we ever hear on the topic from the FTC.

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EA Agrees to Remove FIFA Loot Boxes in Belgium

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Electronic Arts opened a can of worms when it added heavy-handed microtransactions and loot crates to Star Wars Battlefront II. Regulators all over the world took note of the kerfuffle and started wondering if the loot box mechanics were akin to gambling. Belgium even decided to make loot boxes illegal, but EA spent months ignoring the law. Now, it’s backing down and will remove the feature from FIFA Ultimate Team and future FIFA titles.

The backlash started in late 2017 when EA started beta testing the new Battlefront with extremely harsh loot box mechanics. At the time, it would take hour upon hour of grinding to unlock heroes and powerful Star Cards. Or you could just pay EA more money for crystals and buy some loot crates. EA eventually removed most of the more offensive aspects of this system, but the damage was done.

Several countries have started investigating the use of loot crates in games to see if they constitute gambling under the law. There is some research that backs this up — people are encouraged to spend real money on randomized items, some of which are extremely valuable. This triggers the same parts of the brain as gambling. There’s even some concern in the UK that an increase in gambling addiction among young people could be tied to loot boxes.

EA has been adamant that loot boxes aren’t gambling. CEO Andrew Wilson claimed it was different because you always get something in a loot crate, and you can’t cash out (at least officially). FIFA Ultimate TeamSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce has been one of the biggest loot box offenders of the past year, encouraging players to pump in cash to unlock rare player cards.

Belgian authorities have been threatening legal action against EA for months, but the company has decided to avoid taking the case to court. It will stop accepting real money for points at the end of the month.

Belgian players of FIFA will have until January 31st to buy additional points, and they will still work for purchasing premium content. However, point purchases stop after that, the only way to earn loot boxes is by playing the game. EA isn’t changing the mechanics of the game, which is going to mean endless grinding to get anything done.

Losing Belgian loot boxes won’t make a big dent in EA’s bottom line, but more significant changes could be coming as other countries continue to study the problem.

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Loot Boxes in Games Draw FTC’s Attention

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A year ago, loot boxes were a persistent annoyance for gamers, but they didn’t get much attention from the rest of the world. But then, Electronic Arts made the mistake of stuffing too many of them into Star Wars: Battlefront 2. The outcry over Battlefront 2 was so loud that EA had to drop the loot boxes, and regulators began to take notice. Now, several countries have enacted regulations on random loot, and the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has now pledged to look into it.

In a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) discussed the issue of loot boxes with FTC commissioners. Hassan points out that loot boxes are present in games of all types, from the lowliest casual mobile games up to expensive AAA titles. Referencing a Juniper Research report from earlier this year, Hassan says loot boxes will be a $ 50 billion industry by 2022.

Loot boxes form an integral piece of the progression mechanics in many of today’s most popular games including Overwatch and FIFA. These are distinct from other in-game purchases because the items in each box are random. Sometimes you get common items, but there’s a chance you could get highly sought-after goodies. And of course, you have to buy most loot boxes with real money.

After detailing the potential issues with loot boxes, Senator Hassan asked FTC chairman Joe Simons to undertake an investigation. Simons affirmed he would, but it was just a simple “yes.” Simons didn’t offer additional insights or express any feelings on the matter. If the FTC follows through, it will evaluate the negative impact of loot boxes and update the committee on the outcome.

Thus far, Japan, the Netherlands, and Belgium have all taken action to regulate loot boxes. Belgium has been the most heavy-handed, forcing some publishers to remove loot box mechanics. Meanwhile, the Entertainment Software Association contends that loot boxes are not gambling because they “have no real-world value.”

The more regulators and researchers look into loot boxes, the more they look like gambling. It doesn’t matter if the items you get have no real-world value — people attach value to them. This is different than a conventional in-game purchase or DLC because you don’t know what you’re getting in a loot box. So, you can’t do a cost-benefit analysis to decide if you should spend the money. Loot boxes exploit human psychology just like a spinning roulette wheel, dangling the possibility of fabulous prizes in front of our faces to encourage spending. We’re only beginning to understand how that affects players, and maybe the FTC can help figure that out.

Now read: EA May Get Sued Over FIFA Loot Crates in BelgiumDestiny 2 Players Revolt After Bungie Misreports, Then Slashes, XP Gain, and Most Gamers Hate Buying Loot Boxes, So Why Are Games Using Them?

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Study: Loot Boxes Are ‘Psychologically Akin to Gambling’

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Microtransactions like loot boxes are a big part of modern gaming to the point that most of EA’s revenue comes from these mechanics. It’s not alone, either. Governments around the world are taking a closer look at these money-making features to determine whether or not they constitute gambling. Some countries like Belgium and The Netherlands have already decided they are, and Australia might be headed in that direction according to a new government report.

The Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee (ECRC) conducted a survey of more than 7,400 gamers in the country to determine how they respond to “chance-based” items in games. The ECRC presented the results of the study during a public hearing in Canberra this week. As you might expect, the study supports the idea that loot boxes are “psychologically akin to gambling.”

According to the ECRC, the levels of spending and state of mind seen in heavy loot crate purchasers is very similar to those who gamble in more traditional ways. Gamblers chase the emotional high of a big win by pumping more and more money into a game of chance. Since loot crates award items randomly, gamers get stuck in a similar cycle.

This isn’t just an academic distinction. The ECRC says loot boxes can have deleterious effects on vulnerable players. The report says that those who spend the most on in-game microtransactions are more likely to suffer from addiction to traditional gambling. By the same token, gamblers can get their fix with loot boxes instead of a few rounds of cards. It’s not the same as, for example, collecting baseball cards. 

Battlefront-Pic

The payment mechanics in Battlefront 2 were so bad that governments have started investigating.

The committee offered several potential restrictions on loot boxes but not an outright ban. These games could end up restricted to those aged 18 and older (the legal gambling age in Australia). The ECRC also suggests titles with loot boxes carry a warning about the presence of chance-based items and the dangers of gambling. However, these are all just suggestions — Australia has not taken up any legislation on the matter, and no rule-making body has weighed in yet.

Whether or not Australia decides loot boxes are gambling, the tide seems to be turning against this form of monetization. EA kicked off the current round of investigations when it integrated obnoxious pay-to-win mechanics into Star Wars: Battlefront II. While it backed down and removed those elements, it may have spoiled the party for other publishers like Blizzard and 2K. EA has refused to pull microtransactions in Belgium, potentially setting up a legal battle to decide the matter.

Now read: Battlefront II Investigated in Belgium as EA’s Reddit AMA BombsEA Frantically Defends Loot Crates in Battlefront II as Gamers Strike Back, and Star Citizen Unveils $ 27,000 Content Pack, Because of Course

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EA May Get Sued Over FIFA Loot Crates in Belgium

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It has been almost a year since the insulting, expensive microtransactions in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 started a backlash against loot crates in games. Electronic Arts was behind the Star Wars loot crates, so it may not come as a surprise that it has been hesitant to remove loot crates from games in Belgium, which decided earlier this year that the randomized loot crate mechanics in games from EA and other publishers constituted illegal gambling. Now, that decision may be headed for court.

The Belgian gaming commission was quick to decry the loot crate mechanisms highlighted by the Battlefront 2 controversy. In April of this year, the country decided that loot boxes that return random rewards in exchange for money count as gambling, and are therefore illegal in Belgium. The Netherlands followed shortly thereafter. Game publishers like Blizzard and 2K pulled the offending microtransactions from their games in the country, but EA seems determined to test the ban.

The firestorm of criticism over loot crates in Battlefront 2 led EA to remove them from the game, but the publisher’s FIFA titles still use loot crates. The loot crates are live everywhere, even in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium, the gaming commission has reportedly referred the EA matter to the country’s public prosecutor’s office, which is investigating if EA has broken the law by leaving loot boxes in FIFA.

EA’s FIFA games sell players card packs, and those packs contain players of various skill levels. EA recently decided to disclose the odds of getting the best cards in these packs, and it uses this as part of its argument for keeping loot box mechanics. EA CFO Andrew Wilson also asserted earlier this year that loot boxes aren’t gambling because it doesn’t offer players any way to sell or cash out their cards for real money. It sure does feel like gambling, though, with some players spending thousands of dollars in pursuit of the ultimate team.

A legal case in Belgium may be exactly what EA wants. If the public prosecutor decides to bring a case, EA will have the chance to go before a judge and argue that loot boxes are not gambling. A favorable ruling could help EA justify the use of microtransactions in future games.

While Belgium is leading the way in fighting loot crates, some other countries have gone in the opposite direction. The US and New Zealand decided loot crates don’t count as gambling, but some US states have started investigations. No legislation has come of it, though.

Now read: Disney May Have Pushed EA to Pull Battlefront II Pay-to-Win Loot System Last WeekMost Gamers Hate Buying Loot Boxes, So Why Are Games Using Them?, and EA Remains Committed to Microtransactions, and That’s Partially Our Fault

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Belgium Decides Loot Boxes Are Illegal Gambling

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Video game publishers have been pushing loot boxes and other microtransactions for years, but the release of Star Wars Battlefront II in 2017 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Gamers complained loudly and often about the expensive loot boxes and “pay-to-win” mechanics harming the gaming experience. Some even pointed out how similar loot boxes were to gambling, and that got governments around the world interested. Are loot boxes gambling? Belgium has decided that, yes, they are.

Electronic Arts seemed caught off-guard by the negative reaction to Battlefront II during the beta. Players noted that the random loot crates could only be purchased with premium in-game currency, and that means you have to spend money. Unlike many other games, items like Star Cards in Star Wars loot crates could vastly change the gameplay experience. In fact, it would take 40 hours of grinding to unlock some of the most sought-after hero characters in Battlefront II if you didn’t pay for loot boxes.

Several US states and EU countries began investigating loot boxes in video games in the wake of Battlefront II. EA took loot boxes out of the game to assuage fans, but that hasn’t saved other publishers. In the Netherlands, regulators recently decided that loot boxes are a form of gambling and have demanded that such mechanics are removed.

The Belgian Gaming Commission investigated Star Wars Battlefront II, FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In a humorous turn of events, the only game the commission didn’t hammer is Battlefront — EA still doesn’t have any loot boxes in the game. All the others, according to regulators, constitute illegal gambling. Minister of Justice Koen Geens was especially concerned about how children would be affected by loot boxes. Legislation always aims to keep kids from coming in contact with gambling, but loot boxes are all over video games that kids might play.

Belgium is being less heavy-handed than the Dutch, who gave companies until June 20th to remove loot boxes. The Belgian Gaming Commission has requested information from publishers and developers to determine who is responsible for removing the loot boxes. If the industry doesn’t comply, responsible individuals could face up to five years in prison and fines of €800,000. It might take time to pull these elements from games, and doing so could result in gameplay balance issues. The games were designed to have loot boxes after all. Perhaps publishers will think twice about including loot boxes in future games if regulators continue to treat them like a slot machine.

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