Ever since Star Wars Battlefront 2 revealed the exploitation of loot boxes to the non-gaming world, governments and politicians everywhere have been trying to crack down on what they classify as gambling. Most game developers and publishers have started to learn from EA's mistake in 2018 and decided to omit loot boxes from their games altogether. However, the president of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has recently come forth and addressed the subject.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz at the recent Nordic Game Conference, ESA President Mike Gallagher said that "in-game transactions are not gambling." He commented on the recent act of several countries like the Netherlands and Belgium taking action on loot boxes as challenging "our industry's freedom to innovate, and impairs our ability to continuously test new business models, which drive creativity and engagement with our audience."
ESA President Loot Boxes: Why Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling
Gallagher cited the decisions of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board in the US, as well as the gambling authorities of both the UK and New Zealand, that loot boxes are not officially considered gambling. He added that it is up to the game developers to choose and shape their business model according to the reactions of their respective consumers.
He also gave another reason for why loot boxes should not be considered gambling, besides the rulings of several authorities. Gallagher said that loot boxes are "not converted into value in the world. It can only exist in the digital world - that's the component that many of these definitions look at... There's not an exit path, to turn that into something outside of the game."
ESA President Loot Boxes: The Role of the Games Industry
According to Gallagher, the role of the games industry now is to educate "leaders and policymakers" about existing "ratings and parental tools" that are already being implemented to protect gamers, especially to ensure that the loot boxes only reach their intended audience and not children. Last month, Overwatch, CS: GO and FIFA 18 were declared illegal by the Belgium Gaming Commission for containing loot boxes which were in violation of the country's gambling laws.