Many countries have opened investigations into loot boxes in gaming and their links to gambling while others have already put regulations in place. The Brazil authorities have just, themselves, launched an inquiry that aims to completely ban loot boxes.
This comes at the recommendation of the National Association of Child and Adolescent Defense Centers (ANCED) because loot boxes are a paid item that has no guaranteed reward, giving out a random item instead. In certain games, this isn’t tradeable, but in titles such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, loot box rewards can be sold on the marketplace for profit, giving a monetary incentive to take the risk.
In Brazil, randomized monetization is a form of gambling, and so it is illegal. If loot boxes are officially recognized as randomized monetization, then companies who implement them into video games could face fines of up to $706,000 per day.
In Germany, new rules have been implemented under the Youth Protection Act that makes it so that the inclusion of loot boxes will impact a game’s age rating, particularly pushing it up to 18+. This means that titles such as FIFA would be, under this new rule, adult games because of their inclusion of gambling.
Meanwhile, a charity called GambleAware launched its own investigation into loot boxes. It called for all games to have an automatic enforceable age rating much like what happened in Germany. Dr. James Close told GambleAware, “At-risk individuals, such as problem gamblers, gamers, and young people, make disproportionate contributions to loot box revenues. Our work has established that engagement with loot boxes is associated with problem gambling behaviors, with players encouraged to purchase through psychological techniques such as ‘fear of missing out.'”
Finally, the UK is reviewing its Gambling Act which, with these new studies, could spell legislation changes. With so many countries cracking down on loot boxes, it may simply be safer for developers to return to guaranteed purchases much like what has happened with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Instead of loot boxes as in prior games, it has its own store page and battle pass system – you know what you are paying for, even if it is a touch overpriced. That seems to be the future for microtransactions.
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James Troughton is a writer at TheGamer. He’s worked at the Nintendo-based site Switchaboo and newspaper TheCourierOnline and can be found on Twitter @JDTroughton.
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