At the Nordic Game Conference, Entertaniment Software Association president Mike Gallagher offered a few thoughts on the topic of loot box regulation, stating that recent decisions reached by Belgium and the Netherlands were based on lack of information while speaking largely in defense of loot box practices.
According to Gallagher, loot box transactions are not gambling by virtue of the fact that gambling takes money without a guarantee of getting anything, while gaming loot boxes always provide something. “Players always receive an in-game feature that aids in customising their experience,” said Gallagher. “When you look at the definitions of gambling throughout the world, and how this is done and how it’s regulated in places like Las Vegas and the US, it’s quite different to the mechanism with loot boxes in games.”
Gallagher further cemented his position by pointing to official confirmation of gambling’s definition by the ESRB and the gambling authorities of New Zealand and the UK.
The ESA president also pointed to the speed with which the games industry can react to customer outcry, pointing once again to the ESRB’s decision to add loot box labeling on games. “The controversy erupted in November, and by April 1 we had implemented significant changes to the ratings system,” noted Gallagher.
Finally, Gallagher made a point to stress that loot boxes are an optional purchase and are otherwise not required to actually fire up, play and enjoy the game.
“When you look at these other decisions, we can’t go to the lowest common denominator of government around the world, and make that the standard the rest of the world has to live by, and limit the trajectory of the industry,” he concludes. “We believe it’s best to be clear about the facts, and make sure those carry the day around the world, so we drive an outcome that best extends the [games industry’s] frontiers and looks after the interests of gamers.”
With all due respect to Mr. Gallagher, he’s very wrong here. The point of playing video games is to feel a sense of reward, and if that sense of reward is hidden behind the walls of a loot box, you’re making that less of an option. Particularly when the existence of a game’s loot boxes are thrust in your face with website landing pages, in-game pop-ups or social media broadcasts. And while it’s certainly better that the industry regulates itself, it’s also clear that many companies would rather see where the envelope is than reform in a more timely manner.
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