Loot boxes in full-priced video games has been a hot topic as of late, specifically in regards to major releases Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Forza 7, Battlefront II, Shadow of War and Destiny 2. Many gamers feel that loot boxes, which are a type of microtransaction that connects slot-machine psychology with undefined in-game money economies, are gambling and should be labeled as such. The noise got so loud that OpenCritic, a review-aggregation site, stepped in and announced this on their Twitter:
We're going to take a stand against loot boxes. We're looking into ways to add business model information to OpenCritic.
— OpenCritic (@Open_Critic) October 9, 2017
The company that would “add business model information” to video games is the ESRB, which already rates most video games published in the United States (i.e. M for mature, E for everyone). However, as of today we learned that they are not going to be adding any “gambling” label to any video game. Why? Well, according to Kotaku, the ESRB does not consider loot boxes as gambling. Here’s the official statement:
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.
This analogy of opening a loot box to that of buying a pack of cards, like Pokemon or MTG, will certainly disappoint anyone who thinks that loot crates are designed by developers in a fashion to prey off the psychological addiction of gambling, but some don’t even agree with the statement at all. “It’s not the same because when you buy any pack of cards they have actual monetary value and in games nothing,” and “Except, I can buy exactly the magic card I want from other people who’ve already opened the packs. I can’t think of any games where that’s possible.” Both quotes which came from Kotaku’s comment section.
What are you thoughts on ESRB’s take on loot boxes? Do you think they got it right or are you in disagreement? Let me know in the comments below.