ESRB Does Not Consider Loot Boxes to Be Gambling

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Most of the triple-A releases in the past few months have contained loot boxes, from Destiny 2 to Middle-earth: Shadow of War to the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront 2.

Because loot boxes in games like Battlefront II and Shadow of War can be purchased with real cash or currency, it seems logical that they'd fall into the real gambling category.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which classifies games in the US and Canada, and the Interactive Software Federation of Europe through its Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system, have said that loot boxes do not constitute gambling because players are sure to get something in exchange for money. "The games sector also takes its responsibility to players, particularly children, seriously and employs various parental controls across all devices that can prevent unwanted in game purchases".

Furthermore, the loot system can not fall under the gambling definition since digital items do not have intrinsic value.

Exhausted of arguing among themselves, some members of the community reached out to higher entities, and now reporters from both Kotaku and Eurogamer have obtained concrete answers from the ESRB and PEGI: loot boxes do not fall under the gambling category in video games. It's not even up to rating boards as to what is classed as gambling, as "this is defined by national gambling laws", Bosmon continues.

Regardless, loot box systems like this - systems that give random outcomes in exchange for money - still trigger those same feelings that make more traditional gambling appealing. The charge is being led by popular YouTube personality John "Totalbiscuit" Bain, who has called for the ESRB to officially classify randomized loot systems as gambling.

The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017. This is because, in gambling, participants run the risk of walking away with nothing. "While there's an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don't want)", an ESRB representative told Kotaku.

According to their review, the loot boxes are considered as a form of optional premium digital content [VIDEO] that includes DLCs and micro-transactions. Loot boxes are an entirely different beast.

Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others.