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ESRB Does Not Consider Loot Boxes to Be Gambling
13 October 2017, 03:59 | Dale Webster
Loot Boxes Aren't Gambling According to ESRB
Loot boxes are a growing trend in video games.
While some might like the idea of unlocking random stuff, it's a pain in the neck for those looking for one specific item. Conversely, there are others who don't have an issue with loot boxes so long as they do not impact the core gaming experience.
Only a handful of Asian nations have classed loot boxes as gambling, though the U.S. has considered legislating skin gambling: an industry fueled by loot box buys. The spokesperson also said: "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.
Interestingly enough, the ESRB does have gambling tags for specific games including "Real and Simulating Gambling". But the ratings board does not agree.
However, so far, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which decides which gaming content is appropriate for different aged audiences, doesn't see a problem. "If there is any real gambling in a game or app it will always receive an Adults Only rating". If you don't like 'em, don't buy 'em-and if you keep on buying them, don't be surprised and indignant when publishers keep working them into their games. So isn't the virtuality of an item just serving as a loophole?
China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have all taken action to regulate skin gambling and loot box trading.
Regardless, loot box systems like this - systems that give random outcomes in exchange for money - still trigger those same feelings that make more traditional gambling appealing.
However, many of these virtual items sell for hundreds of dollars on platforms like the Steam Marketplace. But it seems that ESRB only counts it as gambling if the players have a chance of not getting anything from the loot box. Many of this fall's games, including Shadow of War, Destiny 2, and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II, feature systems in which you can spend real money to get randomized gear in the form of loot boxes.
The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017. However, that would change if a gambling commission states that loot boxes are, in fact, a form of gambling.
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