It seems some gamers lately are up in arms over the idea of loot boxes in video games, mainly because they see it as a “pay to win” strategy for gamers with deep pockets, or consider it some form of gambling when it comes to getting premium items from your earned boxes.
But the ESRB doesn’t see it that way. With all the ruckus going on with loot boxes being in pretty much every major game – including Asssasin’s Creed Origins, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars: Battlefront II, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board indicates that it’s all about chance, and not gambling.
“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. 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). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”
Some people have asked about this classification because the ESRB has noted when real gambling and/or simulated gambling have been featured in a game in the past. A real gambling marker on a game could mean certain death for it on the market, since that would stamp it with the dreaded AO, or Adults Only, rating – meaning retailers likely wouldn’t pick up on it.
The discussion will likely continue whether loot boxes are “cool” in games. They do provide a great deal of additional content that will allow players to keep digging for the good stuff, but there are also some valid complaints that the system allow some players to stock up on loot boxes with real money, thus “paying to win” as they get more access to premium stuff sooner than other players. Some developers are working on ways around this so that everyone has a fair chance, but more than likely, this debate is likely to continue.
We’ll have to see what becomes of loot boxes over the next few months, but, more than likely, they’re here to stay.