The Electronic Software Rating Board (ESRB) has waded into the recent conversation surrounding loot boxes, saying the mechanic does not fulfill its criteria for using gambling as a game descriptor. Love them or hate them, developers are embracing them as another way to generate revenue.
Whether you get one item, multiple items, have to pay to open it, or have the option pay for as many loot boxes as you want, there's one constant: What you receive is nearly always completely random. These loot box systems have been used for years in games like Counter-Strike, Overwatch, Rocket League, and Team Fortress 2.
Only a handful of Asian nations have classed loot boxes as gambling, though the U.S. has considered legislating skin gambling: an industry fueled by loot box buys. The ESRB already has two classifications for wagering in games - "Real Gambling" and "Simulated Gambling". Simulated gambling is reserved for games that feature betting with no real money involved.
In a statement to Kotaku, a spokesperson for the body that decides what kind of rating entertainment properties like TV shows, movies, and video games writes that the act of buying or selling loot boxes is not officially considered gambling. But nope, not going to happen as the ESRB doesn't see it as a form of gambling at all. However, that would change if a gambling commission states that loot boxes are, in fact, a form of gambling.
Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. "If there is any real gambling in a game or app it will always receive an Adults Only rating".
Dirk Bosmans, from European video game rating organisation PEGI echoes these statements to Eurogamer, saying "Loot crates are now not considered gambling: you always get something when you purchase them, even if it's not what you hoped for".
Likewise, if you score a rare item, you can make many times the cost of the box. Skins are virtual game items, such as weapons and clothing, or even just a paint job for an existing in-game weapon. 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.
The ESRB has made up its mind on the issue and will not be classifying loot boxes as gambling anytime soon.
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