French Regulator ARJEL Says Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling
The French regulatory body ARJEL decided this week that video game loot boxes are not gambling. Because the in-game purchases provide random prizes, many game enthusiasts consider loot crates or booster packs to be a form of gambling.
Loot boxes are unpopular with a wide segment of the gaming community, whether they are gambling or not. The fact players can pay for upgrades and enhancements that non-paying players have to win through grinding, many players consider loot boxes to be bad for gaming.
Whatever individual French gamers thinks, ARJEL believes that most loot boxes in video games do not follow the gambling guidelines, so they should not be considered a form of gambling.
Though they have reached a conclusion for now, the French government authority mentioned that the ongoing issue still needs some attention. ARJEL hopes that Europe will come to a common consensus regarding the classification of loot boxes as well as how to regulate them.
That might be a long time coming. Belgium and Holland have declared loot boxes gambling. France decided the other way, while the UK is still considering the issue.
What Is a Loot Box?
Those unfamiliar with gaming might also be completely oblivious to the issue at hand. That reason right there is why it is such a prominent topic now. Loot boxes are not a new thing, but it finally reached the point where people started talking about the issues they can create. As late as 2017, you could find Loot boxes in most video games.
Fortnite used a different system, so many games designed in 2018 does not have randomized loot. Many still do. In-game purchases offer a way to enhance or assist the player’s game in some way. Different forms of games offer different forms of loot boxes.
These upgrades offered in the shape of an unpredictable look box can be in the form of a new skin, a new piece of wardrobe, a new or upgraded weapon, or many other skills or items for your player. Though each loot box presents an item, it might be one you already have. Much like with a pack of baseball cards, you do not know what you are going to get.
Video Game Booster Packs
Depending on the game, loot boxes vary in name as well as the content they hold. For shooter games you might see them referred to as “loot box”, “loot crate” or “lockbox”. These forms of loot boxes typically consist of new gear, outfit or piece of wardrobe. Whereas with digital card games you might find them called “booster pack”. The term originated from collectible card games.
Throughout video games, loot boxes are awarded to the player for free. For example, in Call of Duty, a multi-player shooting game, players receive them for their character leveling up or making it to the end of a multiplayer game without quitting.
Some games, like ones you might play on your hand-held device, give out loot boxes for watching a quick promotional clip in between gameplay. These usually advertise new games coming out or certain streaming events and you might not have even realized that these were even considered loot boxes, but they are a form of it.
Though, these free loot boxes are not the problem. The issue which has caused the gaming world a large amount of discussion and debate is paid in-game boosts.
People are putting to chance their personal funds in order to attain one or many of these unpredictable loot boxes. And that is what makes it such a controversial topic. Countries are finding it hard to know where to draw the line between an innocent game of chance and gambling that requires age limits and regulation.
A Divided World
The world has seen a split in the decisions regarding loot boxes and how to classify them. ARJEL believes them not to be considered gambling, since the items do not hold real-world value. The French online gambling authority are not alone in their views. The United Kingdom and New Zealand have reached a similar stance on the issue, though the UK Gambling Commission still might reverse its position.
On the other side of the debate, the Netherlands and Belgium have officially declared loot boxes to be gambling. These split views are looking to make ARJEL’s goal of having a unified European decision a bit far off. A report from the Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) is currently in the works.
ARJEL believes that as long as the game developer does not participate in the sale of loot boxes as well as does its part in prohibiting resale, the developer cannot be held legally responsible for its use by players as a gambling platform. This third-party view is not viewed the same way by Netherland Authorities.
Loot Boxes in the USA
The United States has been one to see some of the biggest backlash with games regarding loot boxes. With the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2 many gamers and government officials demanded change. Senators have demanded an investigation into the game and other like it. One Hawaii state rep referred to the games loot boxes as “ridiculously exploitative.”
EA put a stop to micro-transactions in Battlefront 2 temporarily, but brought back a revised version. With the rocky release of the most recent battlefront, the company announce the release of Battlefront 5 which will have no loot boxes at all.
ARJEL’s Nuanced View
Though ARJEL stated they do not believe loot boxes to be considered gambling their stance in the matter still seems somewhat vague. The French gambling authority rejected loot boxes as a form of online gambling, however, they did acknowledge the problems these games of chance holds with younger players.
Specifically, they noted that the justification that loot boxes always contain an item does not completely dismiss the risk value. Much like gambling lot boxes often give players a feeling that they barely missed a jackpot as well. This poses the potential desire to keep going which with no regulation stopping the youth from playing it, addiction at a young age is a big issue.
With ARJEL decision regarding loot boxes in relation to gambling, they also noted that their view was purely based off of what the guidelines to gambling state now. That being said, they also mentioned that it might be time to review those guidelines currently in place and possible adjust them to reflect todays issues.