There was an article at the BBC a few hours ago and I had to sit down and ponder for a moment. I can revisit my view again and again, but the BBC gave a very specific side and it stopped me. As I see it loot boxes are not gambling, but the article ‘Loot boxes linked to problem gambling in new research’ gave an additional side, and it matters.
The article (at https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56614281) gives a lot of the same, including the view of “About 5% of gamers generate half the entire revenue from the boxes”, which is an optional valid view, my emphasis is on ‘optional’. You see, even as we are given “Loot boxes are a video game feature involving a sealed mystery “box” – sometimes earned through playing the game and sometimes paid for with real money – which can be opened for a random collection of in-game items such as weapons or cosmetic costumes”, I noticed ‘sometimes earned through playing the game’ before, I got most of all gear in NHL19 without ever paying a cent! This is important, and there is a stage where we need to recognise the games that offer loot boxes as a reward from within the game. It is “The upcoming Gambling Act review is set to look at the question, with the UK’s House of Lords already having weighed in to say that loot boxes should be firmly regulated as “games of chance”” that made me pause, loot boxes are not gambling, but when it is stated that they are ‘games of chance’ I do not disagree. We can argue in all manner that EA games took loot boxes in FIFA and went overboard, I will not disagree on that. Consider that FIFA21 “In FUT, there are more than 16,000 Day 1 cards, corresponding to as many players”, as such, if there are 1,000 it would be a low estimate, 2,500 would be more likely, but I have no official numbers. This implies that to have them all you would have to buy a minimum of 2,500 packs, if each pack has only one rare, that is just insane.
It is not gambling! You see, to have that premise, that needs to be a setting that buying one pack gets you one cards stating ‘Thank You’, that is not the case, you always get a set configuration of common, uncommon and 1 rare card. But the House of Lords goes with ‘games of chance’, which is the seemingly the case and even more, it has an exploitative side, I never denied that, and there is a difference, I opted in the past for an alternative. It is what is called ‘A factory set’ a set with every card, the set is not tradable and has no value as you cannot trade them, but you would have all the cards and to offer that set in the last quarter of the game might be an option.
My issue with the article was “The link between gaming loot boxes and problem gambling has been “robustly verified”, according to a new report”, I have issues with that straight of the bat and I would want to see that full report and its data before giving it any validity. You see, in the last 6-12 months I have noticed that gambling and in game advertising that is pro gambling has been popping up all over iOS and Android, Google’s own YouTube now has an increasing amount of gambling advertisements, so the setting is as I personally see it rigged.
This included advertisements on how to win at gambling, a stage that in my mind has nowhere to go and shouldn’t be allowed in any advertisement setting of Google. I wonder if that factor was considered in that report, was it even investigated? Let’s take a look!
A stage that is on a sliding slope, as we see more and more pagers on the internet all set to the stage where you can win real money playing games, so the game is already rigged and it has nothing to do (as far as I can see it) with loot boxes. And the report by the GambleAware charity is off to the wrong start with “Loot boxes are purchasable video game content with randomised rewards. Due to structural and psychological similarities with gambling, they have come under increasing media, academic and legal scrutiny. The UK government is currently reviewing evidence on loot boxes, which will be considered in the forthcoming review of the Gambling Act 2005”, you see plenty of games allows you to win these boxes by playing, Mass Effect 3, NHL 19 and several others, some give several packs a day, you only have to enter the game to get them. The report (at https://www.begambleaware.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/Gaming_and_Gambling_Report_Final.pdf) has more. “relationships between loot box engagement and problem gambling have been robustly verified in around a dozen studies”, I have an issue with that statement, but lets continue for now. When we see “Participants also purchased loot boxes because of a ‘fear of missing out’” I wonder how this was proven, you see, when we see on page 6, ‘A game will offer loot boxes for free. Encouraging later real-money purchases’ it is an assumption, a speculation. I never spend money on NHL19 and I have all the jerseys, all the goalie masks and all the arena’s. In addition, Mass Effect never pushed for spending money, you can get it all by merely playing. That is a setting of two games straight of the bat. Yes, it was possible to spend money, but it was never needed. The research then give us Overwatch which is a free to play and loot boxes are their only revenue, but what is there?
The report gives Fortnite a pass on a few settings, yet the Verge gives us ‘Epic Games will settle Fortnite loot box lawsuits in V-Bucks’ with the additional “The class action settlement also provides an additional $26 million in benefits” (at https://www.theverge.com/2021/2/22/22295676/epic-games-fortnite-loot-box-lawsuit-settlement-rocket-league-v-bucks), as such the report already has a few sides I find debatable and optional rejectable. When we are treated to “the game’s cooperative survival mode, “Save the World,” did — at least until 2019 when Epic changed its loot box system to allow players to see the item inside prior to purchase”, so why did that report not contain the part that gives us ‘when Epic changed its loot box system’, and all whilst another source gives us regarding Ubisoft “The Division 2 has both microtransactions and loot boxes and we said that Ubisoft didn’t go overboard with recurring revenue”, this was given to us in 2019, so why is a 2 billion dollar company excluded from this research? Is this EA games bashing?
There is more, and as gambling influences on other fields that the same group finds itself, the setting is as I personally see it rigged.
The report has some conclusions that make sense, they do have some grasp of the issue and as I personally see it, there needs to be a larger stage here, one that is beyond ‘self-regulating’, in this EA Games made several massive blunders on the stage and that Needs to be acknowledged too. I am all for the full disclosure of odds as well as a FULL LIST (including rarity) of all cards that can be obtained. I believe that a factory set, one that cannot be used for trading and optionally not for playing either, it might lower the ‘Pokemon’ impact (gotta catch them all) of those spending cards on it, some do want to have them all, merely for the having. Anyone who ever collected Football, Hockey or Basketball cards will get that part. A stage that will evolve over time and one that could reset the barriers we have now.
So yes, I feel I was right, loot boxes are not gambling, but they are a game of chance, even as every pack has the same dimensions, they tend to have 1 rare card and in case of EA’s FIFA that will not do, not in a game with 16,000 playable characters. There are several solutions, but it is up to EA to steer their ship to one of the solutions that gamers can live with, I for one think that the EA NHL solution is one that should limit damage, yet with 16,000 characters, the packs should be 500% larger, including at least 5 rare cards, but that is merely my initial view.
I have a few issues with the report, but it does give us a view that is not entirely wrong and it also gives us a few sides that matter. As for the BBC article, loot boxes might to some degree correlate to problem gambling, but that stage is a lot bigger than the report gives. And it starts in both the Android and the Apple store with their collection of free games that offer in-app purchases, the fact that these makers set the game up to mandatory show one advertisement EVERY level is a larger stage, and the oversight of that makes it an issue, if gambling is a factor, these influences should be looked at as well, as well as the deceptive conduct that we see in the advertisements with increasing amounts.