What is going on with loot boxes in games?

ESRB loot boxes

Loot boxes, to them, are more akin to trading cards and collectible packs that always deliver some assortment of items, whether or not these items are the ones expected by the player.

In many of today's video games, players find items they need within the game world, such as weapons, health and money.

Additionally, the ESRB has mentioned that any game with real gambling involved will receive an "Adults Only" rating, though there's also a classification of "Simulated Gambling" that most games featuring loot boxes aren't part of too.

According to UKIE, the loot box systems in games - sometimes requiring gamers to use real money to purchase a box containing random items that may or may not have what players want - complies with the current United Kingdom, standards for gambling. But the ratings board does not agree.

ESRB's website notes that it has two categories for gambling: real gambling and simulated gambling.

Exhausted of arguing among themselves, some members of the community reached out to higher entities, and now reporters from both Kotaku and Eurogamer have obtained concrete answers from the ESRB and PEGI: loot boxes do not fall under the gambling category in video games.

Whether you consider loot boxes as a form of gambling depends on your personal definition of gambling. Conversely, there are others who don't have an issue with loot boxes so long as they do not impact the core gaming experience. If you are truly against loot boxes in games, you are free to exercise your right to not buy a title with them. "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)", an ESRB rep said in the aforementioned statement. But it seems that ESRB only counts it as gambling if the players have a chance of not getting anything from the loot box.

Players have raised concerns about the use of loot boxes in recent games like Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Middle-earth: Shadow of War, specifically over the worry that the gameplay benefits of loot boxes could veer too far toward a "pay-to-win" strategy.

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.

Skin gambling is not prohibited as a betting activity and loot boxes can be traded within video games.

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