Illegal Loot Boxes and Gambling: The Aftermath
What is next?
When the news broke about loot boxes as we know them to be “illegal gambling,” it left a lot of unanswered questions, especially about the future. As we know, loot boxes have recently become a part of every game from console, mobile, and PC. Loot boxes are a randomized method of distributing cosmetic items in a game. So, what will happen to them now that they are declared illegal gambling? How will we get our items? What change does the Belgian Gaming Commission really want to see with calling loot boxes ‘gambling’? What will be the next step in the process?
Everyone is sure to remember that, recently, the Belgium Gaming Commission clearly sited Overwatch for the now illegal practice of loot boxes. The Belgian Gaming Commission’s research on loot boxes also stated clearly what they considered gambling, and what is a ‘fair’ game under Belgium law. The Belgian Gaming Authority and Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens both found Loot Boxes to be non-compliant with their gambling laws. Blizzard may soon face criminal prosecution as one of the top offenders accused of violating the Belgian Gaming Commission’s standards.
First off, Belgian Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, intends to open a dialogue between the Belgian Gaming Commission and Blizzard, before moving forward with any potential charges. In the oncoming discussion between Blizzard and Koen Geens about loot boxes, both parties will be able to voice their opinions. The Belgian Gaming Commission calls loot boxes a “manipulative practice.” So, how will Blizzard change this “manipulative practice,” is the next question. The Commission wants to go as far as making the developers like Blizzard give a clear indication, before purchase, that the game ‘contains gambling.’
I don’t much like losin’
This is due to loot boxes being seen as a method of monetizing video games. Through loot boxes, one could easily spend real-world currency within the game. The randomized nature of what a loot box actually gives also plays a part in this. Since Loot Boxes are random, you are probably not going to get what you want. This then encourages some players to keep buying loot boxes until they get what they want.
This is what the Belgian gaming commission is really targeting – not the loot boxes themselves, but the overspending on them. Here, the Commission is citing extreme cases like a 19-year-old spending over $10,000 on in-game microtransactions. The Belgian Gaming Commission adds to this saying, “both in the purchase of loot boxes and in the entire operation of the game, all of this can lead to pure manipulation of individuals or groups of players.”
A number of other possible solutions have already been suggested by the Belgian Gaming Commission to prevent the practice of loot boxes from being too “manipulative”. These methods include player-spending limits, giving access to odds of winning and a veritication of age method to avoid targeting children. The Commission sees minors as the most susceptible to the ‘manipulative’ practice of loot boxes, and most likely to purchase them uncontrollably.
Not time to fold’em yet
How the future of loot boxes as we know them will be is still hazy. Some places like Hawaii are still debating about adopting laws like Belgium against loot boxes, which is a slight indication of potentially what the future has to hold.
We might have small labels attached to loot boxes, like asking for parental permission. We might also see a spending limit. Some of these are already common practices in some games. All we can be certain of now is there will be some major changes in the future.