Loot Boxes Are Comparable to Collectible Card Games
The Gaming Industry’s point of contention this year has been loot boxes—crates, chests, what have you. Microtransactions have hit the playerbase hard with their seemingly needless implementation in all of our favorite franchises. Many gamers have gone so far as to label it ‘gambling.’ But the only real organization that can do anything about it, the ESRB, has drawn a line on the issue.
According to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, opening loot boxes in games does not qualify as gambling. In a direct email to Kotaku, a spokesperson said the following:
“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. 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). 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. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
With the ESRB we have the same group that sticks everything from E (Everyone) to M (Mature) on video games. In their message, they defined the difference between Real Gambling and Simulated Gambling. Naturally, “Real Gambling means betting real money”; “Simulated Gambling” means “player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency.” In other words, it’s not gambling in and of itself that determines the rating, it’s the stakes. If games like Middle-Earth: Shadow of War or Destiny 2 required real currency and offered nothing in return, they might obtain that A (Adults Only) rating that condemns publishers. Most stores will not place games with A ratings on their shelves.
Of course, loot boxes/microtransactions will remain a salty subject. No one wants to pay $60 for a product that may require more cash. At this point, it’s all a matter of how developers craft their in-game economy.
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