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13 October 2017, 03:58 | Justin Tyler
Loot Boxes Aren't Gambling According to ESRB
We may not like it when loot boxes are twisted into mircotransaction catalysts and stuffed into our games, but we can't deny that the ESRB's response at least seems logical.
This has prompted a spokesperson for the board to inform Kotaku that the "ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling", and that "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)". Most North American retailers, including Walmart and GameSpot, won't carry AO games, meaning a lot of big games would essentially be banned from sale if the ESRB decided loot boxes constitute gambling. One of the most severe concerns was that these loot boxes could be considered gambling and are accessible to those under the required age, causing the ESRB to weigh in.
Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. According to the organization, real gambling involves users wagering real cash, while simulated gambling involves virtual cash or currency.
None of which is to say that the success of loot boxes isn't rooted in throwing the levers on the same sort of psychological urges that drive people to sit for hours on end in front of casino slot machines, a topic we dug into in detail right here. With more and more gamers voicing their displeasure at how this little feature is now used as a microtransaction tool, expect more gamers to hate it in future games. But the ratings board does not agree.
ESRB's website notes that it has two categories for gambling: real gambling and simulated gambling. These groups have reportedly got in touch with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (#ESRB) to possibly indicate the system as #gambling in their ratings. If a guarantee of in-game content is what differentiates loot boxes from gambling, what about when you open up a box and find nothing new in it?
A system of trading has therefore developed, with players using third party gambling sites to pit their own skins against those of other players, or of the site itself. Loot boxes are an entirely different beast. This includes titles such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Forza Motorsport 7, and Destiny 2.
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