Australia at War over Loot Boxes

Australia at War over Loot Boxes

While the gaming world is going crazy over recent video game releases, such as “Star Wars Battlefront 2” and “God of War,” many Australian regulators are discussing whether to classify loot boxes in video games as a form of gambling and regulate them. The debate is also raging in the United States and in parts of Europe as well Many experts have stated that loot boxes represent a form of gambling because what is in the loot boxes is randomized, and, often, players have to pay into the game to get access to them. Increasingly, video gaming and gambling are growing more closely related.

What are Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes, which are also called loot crates or lock boxes, are either given to players during gameplay — as a reward for moving to the next level, for example– or they may be given when a person isn’t playing — for example, players may receive them when they watch streaming events or participate in multiplayer versions of the game.

Players can also buy loot boxes with actual money, as well as currency earned during gameplay. Loot boxes may come with keys, or players may have to earn or purchase keys separately. Loot boxes are based on probabilities or rarities. The rarer boxes are colored a different color, and, therefore, are more valuable. Loot boxes may be doled out with a slots-type spin, or as a button during gameplay, which either gives out the loot box or encourages the player to buy additional loot boxes or booster packs, in the hopes of obtaining additional loot. This might mean spending additional money. Loot boxes were first introduced in Japan in the game “Maplestory,” in which players were given additional tickets to play. In the United States, the popularity of social network games has also given rise to loot boxes, which allow players to move ahead in the game for a fee.

The Problem with Loot Boxes

Many experts have stated the problem with loot boxes is many of the games either ask the players to spend more and more money – either to move ahead in the game, to access additional levels in a free game or to win additional money or tools they need to play the game. The randomness of the loot boxes is based on algorithms, just like slot machines and video poker games in casinos. In addition, officials are concerned about the requirement that players need to pay into the game for the chance to try for the loot box, which they may or may not receive.

Moves Toward Outlawing Loot Boxes in Other Countries

Several countries have started the process of either outlawing loot boxes or requiring those games that have loot boxes to be reclassified as gambling devices. The Belgian Gaming Commission has begun investigating loot boxes, as well as in-game purchases, to determine whether to reclassify them as gambling devices. In the United States, the new Star Wars game was heavily criticized as being an online casino, and some legislators in the United States threatened to withdraw permission for the game. This led the game’s owner, Electronic Arts, one of the largest gaming companies in the world, to remove all in-game purchases from “Battlefront 2.”

It remains to be seen whether Australia will allow loot boxes to continue, or whether the country will get rid of the loot boxes and in-game purchases altogether. Legislators in the state of  Victoria are currently considering legislation that would regulate loot boxes as a form of gambling, which means they will become more heavily regulated and taxed.

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