Lawmakers and gaming regulators across the planet are grappling with a new controversy that definitely wasn’t on their radars a year ago – are video game loot boxes a form of gambling? That question is on the minds of regulators in the UK and USA and, as of this week, the controversy has landed on the shores of Australia.
Currently, the epicenter of the loot box debate is in Victoria, where the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) recently branded loot boxes as a form of gambling. Interestingly enough, the Victorian war on loot boxes began after Jarrod Wolfe, a strategic analyst in the Victorian regulators’ compliance division read Reddit post about the controversy surrounding loot boxes in the video game Star Wars Battlefront II, according to a report on CalvinAyre.com.
For those are not current with the video gaming world, Star Wars Battlefront II is the epicenter of the loot box debate after video game players realized that leveling up in the game wasn’t really possible without spending massive amounts of real cash on in-game transactions to purchase loot boxes. But even spending loads of cash on loot boxes still doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, and that’s what concerns regulators like Wolfe.
In a statement the Australian press he described the practice as follows:
The focus of my concerns currently is on the more predatory aspects related to ‘pay to win’. Skins, skins betting and virtual currencies are certainly a peripheral consideration. However, the idea that (genuine) progression in a game could be reliant on the outcome of a random number generator is at odds with responsible gambling and the objectives of our acts. More importantly the normalization of gambling vernacular and mechanics targeted at vulnerable persons (minors), is not just morally reprehensible, but is also legally questionable.
Though Wolfe acknowledged that fighting loot boxes at the regulatory level could prove difficult, the writing is clearly on the wall. The debate over whether or not loot boxes constitute gambling is not going anywhere, anytime soon.