The cost of producing a quality video game has risen exponentially; yet, the price of a game has not risen relative to this. With players wanting the best graphics, intricate story lines and the ability to play online with others from all over the world, the demands keep increasing. This expert development costs a small fortune and companies have had to find an additional way to generate income. One of the most popular channels utilized by big gaming companies is ‘loot boxes or crates’.
Loot boxes contain a variety of virtual items that players can pay to access. These items are potentially game changers, and it is possible to receive something with a value much higher than the cost of the box. Where the lines have become blurred is that the contents are unknown and therefore players are paying for an unknown reward, otherwise known as gambling.
In the last year or so, regulators have sat up and taken notice of what essentially is unregulated gambling, which is also accessible to children, and the controversy hasn’t died down. In fact, it has gained momentum.
Now, 15 gambling authorities from the EU and UK have banded together to end gambling in games, especially those that children can access. They will also be working toward regulating the loot boxes in order to eliminate any potential harm they could cause.
The group is calling on gaming companies to address the public concern about this issue. They have also requested that they should work together to ensure public and especially minor’s safety.
The hope is that together an acceptable industry standard can be established.
The Brussels public prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into EA Games. The company failed to action a request issued to it by the Belgium Gaming Commission. EA’s FIFA games, and 2 others, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch were told to remove the loot boxes or potentially face criminal charges.
Overwatch and Counter-Strike complied; however, Electronic Arts did not, thereby breaking the law.
Minnesota has prohibited the sale of games that offer loot boxes to anyone under the age of 18. All releases will now also be required to have a label that warns against the gambling-like nature, and the potential for them to cause gaming problems and financial risk.
In a statement by Dan Hewitt of the Entertainment Software Association he said that, in his view, loot boxes are not gambling, they are simply an offer and not required for gameplay. This echoes the sentiments of EA CEO Andrew Wilson who said he believes they are in no way comparable to gambling.
Around the world, the gaming authorities will be investigating companies further, and loot boxes may soon become a thing of the past.