Should Video Game Loot Boxes Be Considered as Gambling?

Anyone who doesn’t believe that the world is getting more and more PC, more regulated and structured, isn’t living on this planet. We’re not saying that our everyday freedoms are being stifled by the burdens and chains of democracy and the very rules we live by, or are we?

No, things may be grim right now but thankfully we’re more worried about our video games that we are the pressures of society and political upheaval. And what we’re starting to get concerned about is the regulations that may be applied to our precious games in the future, based on the strict, forth coming gambling laws that could disrupt our fun. Let us explain.

Loot Boxes

For all you novice gamers out there, a “loot box” is the holy grail of Christmas-esque goodies that you can get in your gaming life. It’s often represented as a chest or crate and inside is anything from health to armour, weapons to new skills. Now, these don’t always contain something of value but nevertheless, they are not free. We must pay for these goods or services with our hard-earned money, in some form or another. You follow?

And What’s the Drama About?

I’m glad you asked. You see, our very PC world that we live in means that all the higher powers are constantly on the look out for everything and anything that could harm us. Hence, coffee cups have “caution – hot” warnings and machinery has “do not operate whilst sleeping” signs.

With the complete boom of the online gambling industry of recent times, many regulations have had to be put in place to protect the average Joe from corruption and addiction. It’s a good thing. It stops us being blatantly robbed of all our money from a mere throw of a virtual dice. But the drama comes when a loot box offers something at random from your investment. Because that is the very definition of gambling, “to play games of chance for money”, and all gambling needs to be regulated.

When the contents of a loot box remains unseen, what’s to stop young players from paying over and over until they finally get that weapon that they need to progress. So, now we have players who aren’t old enough to gamble, but are addicted nonetheless on a mini game of chance that is costing them a lot of real money.

Bonus Features to Keep Them Spending

Just like online casinos and other gambling website are giving away bonus funds to play with when depositing real money, some gaming companies are selling loot boxes in special deals. These deals could for example be discounted prizes if you spend enough, free loot boxes as a form of cashback or welcome offers to get new players hooked.

If you are a frequent spender on loot boxes, you can quickly see the similarities to many of the casino bonuses that are featured on websites across internet in massive numbers. Even if the offer is not given in real cash, you can often sell the skins that you won on third party websites later.

For the inexperienced gamer, this might not be a big deal as the transactions often are on the smaller side, but over time they add up, and with some loot boxes being worth thousands of dollars it can easily get young people involved in what is essentially gambling activities.

What Will be Done About it?

You may have already seen that game providers are changing the way some big-name games operate, already. Fortnite made their loot boxes transparent after pressure from consumers in 2019. Belgium went a step further and banned all boxes that had to be purchased with actual funds.

The question is, are they right to do this or is it all just a step too far? You need to consider that many of these games are played by kids under the age of 16 and it can develop into serious addiction if no regulation is put forward. The idea is not that they should be banned altogether, but classed as gambling and therefore forcing the developers of the game to become more transparent with their contents. This way they will be kept as a fun addition to the game and not a money-making tool.

And with micro-transactions in online games generating income for the providers in excess of $30 billion a year globally, it suddenly does become a real concern.

The Loot Boxes of the Future

When we start to talk about the potential value of this in the future, with so many more young kids playing the likes of FIFA and Call Of Duty, it’s almost a given that times will change. Loot boxes that can be found by players at random and not paid for can’t be regulated. Nor can any that are provided as a reward for completing a task or reaching a higher level.

But gaming providers will soon start to find themselves wrapped in a lot of red tape if they continue to offer them for real money (or credit) and don’t disclose their contents. And like most people, they don’t appreciate red tape.

The future will see games without these additions to their gameplay or will force players to prove they are of age to play. Because this will be classed as gambling, as it should, and with it all the regulations imposed that online casinos have to deal with.

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