Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Must Showcase LootBox Rewards Odds

Loot boxes are the new FPS game in the game industry. They’re everywhere but now the government is becoming more involved than ever. The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has stated that the Big 3 (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony)  are working on new policies to require loot box odds disclosure on their systems. The ESA are “major players of the video game industry work together to support the bright future of video games.” They are organization filled with members of every gaming company.

ESA’s chief counsel of tech policy, Michael Warnecke, stated that they are working with the Big 3 to create “new platform policies with respect to the use of paid loot boxes in games that are developed for their platform. Specifically, this would apply to new games and game updates that add loot box features. And it would require the disclosure of the relative rarity or probabilities of obtaining randomized virtual items in games that are available on their platforms.”

The policies are scheduled to release some time in 2020. Not only are the Big 3 involved but also several gaming companies such as: Activision Blizzard, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Bethesda, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, and Wizards of the Coast.

However, there are several other companies who are part of ESA who have not committed to the future policies: 505 Games, Capcom, CI Games, Deep Silver, Disney Interactive Studios, Epic Games, Focus Home Interactive, Gearbox Publishing, GungHo, Intellivision Entertainment, Kalypso, Konami, Magic Leap, NCsoft, Natsume, Nexon, Rebellion, Riot Games, Sega, Square Enix, THQ Nordic, Tencent, and Marvelous.

With these policies in place, you can expect DLC loot boxes to come with odds before all purchases. This will help buyers make more educated decisions on whether they wish to purchase a loot box. As the policy is ESA and not a government agency, a gaming company is not forced to follow the same policies if they disagree.

How often do you buy loot boxes in your games?

Sources

Game Industry Biz

EA Fights for Loot Boxes at UK Parliament

Ever since Star Wars Battlefront 2 released, EA has been under heavy scrutiny from multiple governments; especially regarding the Loot Box system. Loot boxes have been a common premium content in many multiplayer games. Whether it is Overwatch, FIFA, or NBA 2K, many game companies are using loot boxes to make more profits.

What is bad about Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes usually contain multiple in-game items that can be difficult or slow to earn normally in games. However, there are no guarantees what you can obtain from a loot box. You could be spending money on items that aren’t very valuable. This could cause players to continue to spend money on loot boxes in hopes to obtain rare or good items in games.

EA says Loot Boxes are “Ethical” and “Fun”

Kerry Hopkins, EA’s VP of Legal and Government Affairs, stated that the company’s randomized purchases aren’t “loot boxes” but rather “surprise mechanics.” (PCgamesn) He states loot boxes are similar to Kinder Eggs or other surprise gifts. In regards to questions from the Scottish National Part, Hopkins stated: “our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is actually quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people.” Whether it is fun for players to spend countless dollars in hopes of obtaining a good player seems ridiculous. This is mostly to defend EA’s pack system as FIFA is one of their best selling titles and generates massive amounts of revenue to the player pack system. FIFA 19 sold 9.15 million units for the PlayStation 4 last year. It is the 3rd best selling game of 2018.

Hopkins and EA believe that loot boxes isn’t similar to gambling or leads to gambling addiction. Many governments believe loot boxes will lead people, especially children, to be gambling addicts. EA is hoping the government won’t make any laws to prevent the banning of the system as it generates massive amounts of revenue for the company. While many hardcore players are recognizing and complaining about loot boxes or similar systems, many other players are still purchasing them in hopes of getting their best characters, loot, or cosmetics.

I believe loot boxes should be removed from games. It creates an unhealthy habit because it causes players to spend more money then they should on a chance of obtaining their desires. If you want to just spend money on a character or cosmetic, then that’s fine. At least you know what you’re paying for but spending over $100 a month just for a chance is ridiculous. It is a smart business tactic for companies who can pray on consumers but it isn’t a healthy option in the long run.

Sources:

PC Games

Statista – FIFA stats

European Gambling Regulators Team-Up to Stop Loot Boxes

15 gambling regulators from Europe and Washington, United States will work together to identify “the risks created by the blurring of lines between gaming and gambling.”  Below are the specific participants from each country.

Signatories to the “declaration of gambling regulators on their concerns related to the blurring of lines between gambling and gaming”.

  • Austria: Alfred Hacker, Director, Federal Ministry of Finance
  • Czech Republic: Karel Blaha, Director of the State Oversight Over Gambling Department
  • France: Charles Coppolani, Chair of the French Online Gaming Regulatory Authority
  • Gibraltar: Andrew Lyman, Executive Director, Gambling Division, HM Government of Gibraltar
  • Ireland: Brendan Mac Namara, Principal Officer, Gambling Policy Division, Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland
  • Isle of Man: Steve Brennan, Chief Executive, Gambling Supervision Commission
  • Jersey: Jason Lane, Chief Executive, Jersey Gambling Commission
  • Latvia: Signe Birne, Director of Lotteries and Gambling Supervisory Inspection of Latvia
  • Malta: Heathcliff Farrugia, Chief Executive Officer, Malta Gaming Authority
  • The Netherlands: Jan Suyver, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Netherlands Gambling Authority
  • Norway: Henrik Nordal, Director Deputy General, Norwegian Gaming Authority
  • Poland: Paweł Gruza, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Finance
  • Portugal: Teresa Monteiro, Vice-President of Turismo de Portugal, I.P
  • Spain: Juan Espinosa García, CEO, Directorate General for Gambling Regulation
  • Washington State: David Trujillo, Director, Washington State Gambling Commission
  • UK: Neil McArthur, Chief Executive Officer, UK Gambling Commission

sweden-lootboxes-gambling

They will be targetting sites that promote gambling with video games. They will investigate sites that involve in-game skin gambling. These websites have users gambling their in-game skins rather than money. However, the skins have monetary values and can be considered gambling. The Telegraph reported over 400,00 British teens admitted to using similar websites.

The European Gambling Regulators will also identify whether loot boxes are considered gambling under national law. The laws are targetted towards parents and children. By identifying the lines between gambling and in-game items, parents should have a better understanding of their kids’ purchases.

I don’t think loot boxes will go away anytime soon but gaming companies will have to respond or adjust it before more laws are set in place.

Sources:

Eurogamer

Telegraph – 400,000 British teens lured into under-aged gambling through video games

2K and Blizzard removes Loot Boxes from Belgium and Netherlands

Blizzard (World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Heores of the Storm) and 2K (Borderlands, Mafia, NBA 2K series) has removed the micro-transactions portions from their games: Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, and NBA 2K18. This is to comply with Belgium and Netherlands’ gambling laws. The countries considers loot box as gambling. 2K’s and Blizzard’s official statement are below.

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TL;DR: In Belgium, players can’t purchase MyTeam packs (read: loot boxes) with real money, though they can still be acquired by earning currency in-game. in Netherlands, players will not be able to access Auction House, a feature that allows you to buy and sell your players. (Eurogamer.net) For Blizzard, players can no longer use real money for loot boxes in Overwatch and HoTS.

If you read the statement, 2K and Blizzard disagrees with the banning and believes they are following the law with their initial practices. They actively asked their players to contact the local government to allow their loot box system.

The loot box system is a disgusting and frustrating way to extract more money from players. While more people are growing aware of the unfair practice, there are still many players purchasing loot boxes. Last year, Blizzard earned over $3 billion USD from loot box sales. Often, gaming companies state that loot boxes are to make back the expenses from development.

Sources:

EU Blizzard Forums

2K info

Rock, Paper, Shotgun

Eurogamer