Ten Games and Their Loot Box Economies Were Investigated by Dutch Authorities
Following the Star Wars: Battlefront II fiasco and the ensuing controversy surrounding loot boxes, the Netherlands decided to investigate the link between loot boxes and gambling. The verdict is now in, and the investigation concluded that, out of ten investigated games, four must adjust their loot box mechanics or be reprimanded.
The Dutch Gaming Authority (Kansspelautoriteit) provided an extensive account of their analysis of microtransactions that rely on chance. But I’m going to stick to the most relevant points.
When investigating ten games and each distinct monetization scheme, they paid attention to two specific criteria that could constitute gambling. Each is spelled out in their summary:
“The Netherlands Gaming Authority has completed its study of loot boxes, also known as ‘crates’, ‘cases’ or ‘packs’. Loot boxes are a type of treasure chest that are built into a growing number of games. Loot boxes in games create a mixing of games of chance and games of skill. Although the outcome of games is determined by skill, the outcome of loot boxes is determined by chance. Players usually have to pay for a loot box. The prize that they can win with loot boxes may also have a monetary value. This fact gave rise to the question of whether loot boxes are permitted on the grounds of the Betting and Gaming Act (Wet op de kansspelen). The Netherlands Gaming Authority was also interested in whether addiction risks are associated with opening loot boxes.”
Kansspelautoriteit investigated whether items received in loot boxes had a monetary value and whether the loot boxes had a high addiction factor. Items that are transferrable have a market value, which can thus be sold. Such a system violated the Netherlands’ Betting and Gaming Act. Those video games without transferable items fell within the bounds of the law. Then, there was the matter of addiction.
Ultimately, the Dutch Gaming Authority determined that every loot box “could be addictive.” But, an investigation revealed “no indications of loot boxes being opened on a large scale by problem players and/or addicted players.” Furthermore, the addiction factor is liable to increase when a slot machine mechanic offers transferrable goods. The ability to sell your randomized rewards contributes to the addiction factor, it seems, introducing a “near-miss” effect that’s comparable to a game of Blackjack or Roulette. Meanwhile, loot boxes with non-transferable rewards are more akin to Bingo.
In sum, addiction potential does not violate any laws. In-game purchases with rewards that have monetary value, however, directly contravene Netherland Law. Time will tell if other governments take action against the same form of monetization. For now, it seems at least one nation has verified a link between certain types of loot boxes and gambling.
The Dutch Gaming Authority did not disclose the names of the games they investigated. Time may eventually reveal the properties. For now, let us know your thoughts on the verdict. Comment down below.