What is going on with loot boxes in games?

The ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling

Over the past few weeks, as randomized loot boxes have dominated the conversation surrounding this fall's video games, there have been calls for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to classify them as gambling in its back-of-the-box ratings.

Speaking with Kotaku via email, an ESRB spokesperson stated that the "ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling". Including these elements in games is somewhat toxic to developers and publishers, since they will get automatically rated as Adult Only content and won't be sold in most major stores. 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. Given their randomly generated nature, some like John "Total Biscuit" Bain believe the ESRB should officially qualify loot boxes as a form of gambling.

What do you make of the situation?

The ESRB told Kokatu that loot boxes are not gambling, because the player always received some sort of item of value. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally. If you are truly against loot boxes in games, you are free to exercise your right to not buy a title with them. In contrast, loot boxes always give something to customers despite their random nature. They inherently prey on the player's need for reward, prompting them to take a chance at instant gratification which can in turn cause addiction in the same way that gambling does, all the while enabling them to spend real money. Merriam-Webster Dictionary keeps the definition pretty broad: "To bet on an uncertain outcome".

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

The gaming community has grown concerned with the increasing number of games that include microtransactions as mechanics to obtain new or unique items. But it seems that ESRB only counts it as gambling if the players have a chance of not getting anything from the loot box.

For them, the concept of gambling implies the literal game of chance in which people might or might not get something in return for their money. However, some operators such as Blizzard and Riot have moved to offer loot boxes purchased with in-game virtual currency, not real money, to avoid falling foul of trading and betting laws.

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

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