Thanks to the mainstreaming of the internet to where it is presently with computers, consoles, and mobile devices, it has in turn affected gaming in context to purchasing. This in turn has led to one of modern gaming’s biggest controversies, loot boxes. While it is a booming market, there have been many detractors and just a few days prior to the drafting of this article, Josh Hawley, a senator from the state of Missouri, pushed for national legislation to ban loot boxes.
However, making loot boxes illegal is by no means anything new in the world of gaming. While the chances of such a bill not passing are very high in the US thanks to how it allows lobbying under the free speech laws as ruled by American courts and net neutrality, other nations have managed to limit or outright ban them for reasons we are about to share. So, this pegs the next question, is legislating loot boxes and/or the use of micro-transactions the best course of action?
Why Legislate Them?
Considering the topic is political in nature, Honey’s Anime by no means is endorsing any political figure, party, or policy. When it comes to such issues involving politics, we want to be as neutral as possible to keep you readers properly informed. With loot boxes and in-game purchases a controversy to the point that it’s now requiring government intervention, we feel it’s our duty to help you get a general understanding of the situation.
So, why is there a necessity to regulate loot boxes other than the fact that (especially older) gamers hate them? In the case of some regions, it’s because they’re considered as a form of gambling based on their laws. When it comes to video games in general, the argument can be made that they require skill, and not chance like playing the lottery or getting a royal flush in poker. However, with the concept of loot boxes that can give you some awesome weapon or other piece of equipment, it becomes more of a game of chance as opposed to skill, and that fits the category of pre-existing gambling laws of whatever nation, state, or territory.
Going back to why Senator Hawley wants to regulate loot boxes, he feels that video game companies shouldn’t encourage video game addiction and make further profits off of it, especially as it pertains to children.
Where are Loot Boxes Banned?
Though the EU as a whole has determined that they don’t consider loot boxes as a form of gambling, just like in the US (where gambling is not definitively illegal as a whole), each state still has their own respective sovereignty in regulating gambling (for example, gambling is illegal in New York, but still legal in the neighboring state of New Jersey), each country in the EU still has the authority to sanction gambling within its own borders. So in turn, where is gambling banned in and out of the EU? Gambling is banned in Belgium and Holland, but tightly regulated in South Korea and China, all for gambling related reasons. South Korea is ok with loot boxes, but their industry wants companies to disclaim the probabilities of its in-game prizes to determine whether or not upon releasing it. As it pertains to China, Blizzard with Overwatch has found ways around the law by still allowing players to purchase in-game currency and with that currency, they can buy loot boxes since it is not bought with real life currency.
There have been rumors floating around on the net that loot boxes are banned in Japan, but it’s not true. While some nations view them as gambling, and while gambling is illegal in Japan, it’s illegal under the conditions that it’s for money or anything of monetary values such a car or house. Like in pachinko where you trade your pachinko balls for non-monetary prizes (such as cup ramen, soap, and shampoo), loot boxes are also not monetary in terms of rewards so in that sense, loot boxes are legal in Japan. Australia’s government has determined loot boxes to be psychologically similar to gambling under their studies and has encouraged the industry to put a warning label.
Final Thoughts (Education Vs. Legislation)
Naturally EA has challenged Belgium’s ban under the claims it’s not gambling as that nation’s respective courts are investigating whether or not EA has been in engaging in illegal activity. 2K has encouraged Belgian gamers to contact their local authorities in regards to the legality of the in-game purchases of their respective software. While we aren’t here to endorse any nation’s or territory’s present course of action in regards to loot boxes, all we can encourage, especially of those who are under 18 or have children under the age of 18 is to be responsible. For those of you minors who are reading, please talk to your parents or legal guardians. For parents, in addition to talking to your children, try to make sure they have NO access to your credit card before purchasing any software if it includes such content. At the end of the day, while legislation is there to make sure things don’t happen, proper education can help everyone of all ages in making the right decision and enjoy gaming in moderation.