Both PEGI (Pan European Game Information) and ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) have officially deemed loot boxes as ‘not gambling’.
Loot crates have become a hot topic once again lately after the likes of Forza Motorsport 7, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2 have shown themselves to be riddled with randomised crates and microtransactions. While the likes of Rainbow 6: Siege and Overwatch have arguably implemented them fairly for cosmetic items, all three of these holiday titles have had pay-to-win accusations levelled at them.
Unlike normal microtransactions, loot boxes are a randomised assortment of goods that you can receive. It may be that gun you’ve always been after, or it could just be the leg armour you’ve already got. If it’s the latter, then you’ve basically spent money for nothing (and chicks for free).
This has prompted calls for both the ESRB and PEGI to regulate loot boxes as gambling. Both have come out and categorically said loot crates are not considered to be a form of gambling.
In a statement to Kotaku, an ESRB spokesperson said “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 collectable 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.”
In essence, the ESRB believes that because you are guaranteed at least something from a loot box, there is no chance your return value is zero, regardless of whether you got something you wanted or not.
Meanwhile, PEGI takes an almost identical stance. Operations director Dirk Bosmans seems pretty keen to offload responsibility to the gambling commission instead though, sending a statement to WCCFTech that reads:
“In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB (I think all rating boards do, USK in Germany as well). The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling. That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it’s done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.”
Not our problem is the message I read into that, at least until the national gambling commission decides to qualify loot boxes as a gamble. In a way they do have a point - loot crates are no different than buying a pack of Pokemon cards and hoping for a shiny Charizard before a Weedle plops out.
No sign of budging from the higher-ups then, loot crates are here to stay. Do you personally consider loot boxes to be a form of gambling? Should they be regulated as such? Get raging in the comments below!