The Pan European Gaming Information trade body organization was asked to offer a statement about the current direction of loot boxes in triple-A games, specifically titles like Forza Motorsport 7, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, and the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront II from Electronic Arts and DICE.
PEGI’s director of operations, Dirk Bosmans, provided WCCF Tech with a statement via e-mail explaining their stance on how they see loot boxes in video games, stating…
“In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB (I think all rating boards do, USK in Germany as well). The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling. That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it’s done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.”
What they’re saying is that if gamers want to see some form of regulation on loot boxes, they’ll have to contact state regulatory gaming commissions. So for instance, in the case of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, gamers would have to contact the California Gambling Control Commission to get feedback on whether or not loot boxes in Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment’s Shadow of War is actually gambling, considering that Warner Bros., is based out of Burbank, California.
Alternatively, concerned gamers would have to bring the issue to the Office of Administrative Law to find out what sort of procedures could be taken to address the concerns regarding loot boxes in games being considered gambling.
Technically, loot boxes would fall under the category of a lottery. According to Chapter 9, section 319 of the California state legislative penal code, they describe a “lottery” as the following…
“A lottery is any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property by chance, among persons who have paid or promised to pay any valuable consideration for the chance of obtaining such property or a portion of it, or for any share or any interest in such property, upon any agreement, understanding, or expectation that it is to be distributed or disposed of by lot or chance, whether called a lottery, raffle, or gift enterprise, or by whatever name the same may be known.”
Those living in the U.K., would also have to contact their regional gambling commission branch, specifically the U.K., Gambling Commission, which has its own consumer complaint form.
Back in March of 2017, the U.K., Gambling Commission commented about the loot boxes available in games out at the time, and noted that while publishers defended them as a “closed loop” system that was not gambling, the fact that some forms of gambling was occurring involving digital items (such as the black market for Diablo 3’s RMAH or the CS: GO Lotto scandal) they did note that there should be licenses required for those kind of operations…
“In our view, the ability to convert in-game items into cash, or to trade them (for other items of value), means they attain a real world value and become articles of money or money’s worth. Where facilities for gambling are offered using such items, a licence is required in exactly the same manner as would be expected in circumstances where somebody uses or receives casino chips as a method of payment for gambling, which can later be exchanged for cash.”
Interestingly enough, PEGI seems to have offered a more open-ended suggestion than its other regulatory trade body alternatives. UKIE simply stated that loot boxes comply with U.K., gambling commission standards, and the ESRB flat-out denied that loot boxes could be considered gambling. Thankfully some pundits with a moral compass, such as Erik Kain from Forbes, were willing to call out the ESRB for attempting to deny any problems associated with loot boxes and gambling.