The UK is calling for another loot box regulation. The quite ethical and quite fun surprise mechanics can also quite easily be classified as “a game of chance” according to the UK’s House of Lords Gambling Committee. This means that such mechanics would put them under the extent of the Gambling Act of 2005 and thus being regulated as gambling products rather than a game feature for its playerbase.
However, while it was previously stated a few years back that loot boxes do not count as a form of gambling because certain items you won cannot be legally exchanged for real money, the House of Lords presses the matter that if a product looks like gambling and feels like gambling, it should be very well be regulated as such. And this is further backed by an increasing number of governmental figures including the National Health Service and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that calls for a sterner action.
And this is something that the Lords has stressed that needs to be immediately regulated especially amidst a global pandemic where kids would be spending a lot more time at home and spending more time online with less supervision. This is a scary thing to think about considering how much more time kids can stay connected to the internet than spending it in educational facilities that helps nurture the young.
But what could it possibly entail for its game developers and publishers?
While countries like Belgium has banned loot boxes entirely, the game-rating agency Pegi said that clearer warning labels would be added and companies would have to take the initiative and elect to change the way their systems work without it being a rated-18 game. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive even received a patch that prevents players in Belgium from opening loot boxes and that really says a lot to the current situation.
So what is a loot box anyway?
They are in a way a form of virtual treasure chests more commonly obtained through real money purchases that could contain in-game items that would otherwise be unattainable in any other way. These could range from the less desirable items to the most valuable and sought-after skins and customizations at a very low chance which makes it very valuable to certain people.
Unlike obtaining a skin through a fixed amount of money, this could easily escalate through hundreds and thousands spent which is especially harmful if unsupervised children are involved which is really where most of the playerbase comes from. And this is something I have some sort of connection to in the past being a teen that fell in love with a free-to-play online kart racing game that has the premium smell of karts just waiting to be unlocked. To what seemed like just a try of luck today can very well be a habit in the next week or two.
And how is it different from actual gambling?
Given how much emphasis the UK Government is pushing the idea of loot boxes to actual gambling such as Royal Vegas Online Casino, one of the biggest names in iGaming and most trusted online casinos, there has to be at least some sort of differences right? Well, there certainly is.
Probably the most obvious difference is the lack of real money payouts, which for gambling sites is what you’re expected to be doing afterwards. However it is also not a foreign idea that there are third party sources that could very well trade-in, bet or sell your items or full account for monetary gain. Which isn’t that hard to do even for a kid or teen.
Another reason to make loot boxes different to gambling is that gambling doesn’t exactly hide that it is what it is. If you’re a parent you know gambling is just gambling whether you’re playing for the fun of the game or just the thrill of the ride. In loot boxes, however, it’s something that could be harder to notice and parents wouldn’t really know that it could be hidden in their kid’s new Star Wars game or their teenage boy’s basketball game right? The fact that their game could have some sort of “game of chance” mechanics is something that unaware parents shouldn’t have to burden.
So what could we see in the future? Would loot boxes still be a thing in 2021 and beyond or would game publishers find other ways to get a steady stream of revenue from its consumers especially since we’re at the dawn of a new console cycle? Ultimately, this brings even a lot more questions than answers but let us know in the comment section of what you think could happen.
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