GamerGround What are Paid Loot Boxes?

Edited: 1/30/19 12:44 PM
5/30/03
Posts: 41049

I've been out of the loop for a minute.  I understand microtransactions in game, but there seems to be something called "paid loot boxes," I'm unaware of.  Apparently, EA is buckling in Belgium and many other countries, being that these loot boxes are considered gambling.  Can someone explain the loot box and how it may be considered gambling?  

 

I'm more interested in the philosophical argument of how it's gambling

1/30/19 12:54 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12533

I'll give you one specific example that I know of first hand:

The game Overwatch has paid lootboxes.  These lootboxes contain only cosmetic items, sprays or voicelines.  You get one for free every time you level your profile up one level, they have 4 items in each box that are all cosmetic and there are different rarities for certain items making them less likely to appear in lootboxes. 

You can also spend real world money to purchase these same lootboxes and open them and get those random items.  They are a form of microtransaction, but because you aren't guranteed any particular item they are considered gambling by many people.  The idea being that you are paying real money without even being able to ensure you get what you want. You are essentially being forced to gamble to aquire certain items in the game if you really want them. 

The argument is that a certain percentage of humans will have addictive personalities or are too young or immature to gamble within their means and its predatory towards those types of people.  That's not a big deal since its been the argument against gambling forever.   

I personally don't have an issue with the way overwatch handles this type of thing becaue they give you no competitive advantage, can be aquired for free if you put in the time and allow the game developers a secondary revenue source so they can continue to add new content like new characters, modes and maps to the game all of which is always free.

Only the lootboxes cost more money once you've bought the base game.

Most games that use a form of lootbox or gambling do not do it this way.  Its usually random items that DO effect gameplay and give you a competitive advantage since that's how most free to play games function and make money at all.

Non-gambling style microtransactions would be ones where the price of a specific item is clearly stated and you know exactly what you get for that money.  An example of this would someone buying a particular character skin in that fortnite game for their character.  It might cost about 10 dollars, but you know exactly what you get for that ten dollars.  There's no gambling or luck involved.

Hope that helps.

1/30/19 3:24 PM
11/16/17
Posts: 3546
Hurtsogood -

I'll give you one specific example that I know of first hand:

The game Overwatch has paid lootboxes.  These lootboxes contain only cosmetic items, sprays or voicelines.  You get one for free every time you level your profile up one level, they have 4 items in each box that are all cosmetic and there are different rarities for certain items making them less likely to appear in lootboxes. 

You can also spend real world money to purchase these same lootboxes and open them and get those random items.  They are a form of microtransaction, but because you aren't guranteed any particular item they are considered gambling by many people.  The idea being that you are paying real money without even being able to ensure you get what you want. You are essentially being forced to gamble to aquire certain items in the game if you really want them. 

The argument is that a certain percentage of humans will have addictive personalities or are too young or immature to gamble within their means and its predatory towards those types of people.  That's not a big deal since its been the argument against gambling forever.   

I personally don't have an issue with the way overwatch handles this type of thing becaue they give you no competitive advantage, can be aquired for free if you put in the time and allow the game developers a secondary revenue source so they can continue to add new content like new characters, modes and maps to the game all of which is always free.

Only the lootboxes cost more money once you've bought the base game.

Most games that use a form of lootbox or gambling do not do it this way.  Its usually random items that DO effect gameplay and give you a competitive advantage since that's how most free to play games function and make money at all.

Non-gambling style microtransactions would be ones where the price of a specific item is clearly stated and you know exactly what you get for that money.  An example of this would someone buying a particular character skin in that fortnite game for their character.  It might cost about 10 dollars, but you know exactly what you get for that ten dollars.  There's no gambling or luck involved.

Hope that helps.

Wow you nailed that.

Edited: 1/30/19 3:52 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 87834

The gambling issue with loot boxes is magnified since there are laws and minimum ages for gambling in most jurisdictions. My biggest issue besides that is when competituive items are are put behind paywalls and make the game pay to win. Whats the point of playing a game if some schmuck with the exclusive $50.00 fuckstick of doom can one shot you when it takes the most powerful non dlc weapon in the game 10 hits to kill him?

 

 

1/30/19 3:50 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12534
DaveFu -

The gambling issue with loot boxes is magnified since there are laws and minimum ages for gambling in most jurisdictions. y biggest issue besides that is when competituive items are are put behind paywalls and make the game pay to win. Whats the point of playing a game if some schmuck with the exclusive $50.00 fuckstick of doom can one shot you when it takes the most powerful weapon non dlc weapon in the game 10 hits to kill him?

 

 

Yea, that is kind of where the rubber meets the road.  Gambling in many places is regulated and age minimums and all sorts of other rules like having minimum payouts are often enforced.  If these types of things are considered gambling ,then all sorts of legal and regulatory questions come into play.

The second part of your post is basically why traditional people who play video games for entertainment or fun dislike microstransactions.  This is especially true for games where you compete against others online.  For most people looking to play a competitive online game against other humans, the idea of just paying more money for objectively better shit in the game seems super lame and ruins the competitive experience. 

I understand why companies are using this business model for their games now, financially it makes sense if you look at how much revenue microtransactions can bring in.  I can't fault companies for trying to make as much money as possible, companies exist to please their owners or shareholders as best they can via profits. 

It does get concerning for people who just want to be able to play quality games on a level playing field, though.  Long term I hope the industry isn't completely ruined with this specific business model.  I think there is plenty of room in the market for everything though.  The cream will rise to the top and shitty practices will eventually be outed.

1/30/19 3:55 PM
11/16/17
Posts: 3550
DaveFu -

The gambling issue with loot boxes is magnified since there are laws and minimum ages for gambling in most jurisdictions. My biggest issue besides that is when competituive items are are put behind paywalls and make the game pay to win. Whats the point of playing a game if some schmuck with the exclusive $50.00 fuckstick of doom can one shot you when it takes the most powerful non dlc weapon in the game 10 hits to kill him?

 

 

That's the problem with most online games now are they are pay to win. I only play online with friends because of it. 

EA should be killed for what they did with battlefront two. Fuck them and fuck Disney. Ruined my childhood.

Btw Jedi academy is on Xbox one and it's amazing to this day. Just wish I could put dismemberment on the console like I did pc in the day

1/30/19 3:57 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 87835

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

1/30/19 4:12 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12535
DaveFu -

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

Yea, I don't have a problem with it either.  I personally just support the games I think deserve supportng and don't support the ones I feel suck.  Which is basically what I've always done, there's just way more options these days and a bunch of them happen to be pretty poorly made free to play games. 

Some people like things I don't like.  That's cool.  Its weird to me when people think free to play games that are pay to win should be illegal or not allowed to exist just because they don't personally like them.  If the game makes money, obviously someone out there likes that game and pays for it.  Why can't they support the games they like and you support the ones you like? 

 

1/30/19 4:12 PM
11/16/17
Posts: 3551
DaveFu -

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

I have no problem paying for dlc on AAA games but the fact kids are being taught to pay for horseshit skins and dance moves on stuff is going to fuck future gamers some how. 

1/30/19 4:22 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12537
Thebonfirexm -
DaveFu -

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

I have no problem paying for dlc on AAA games but the fact kids are being taught to pay for horseshit skins and dance moves on stuff is going to fuck future gamers some how. 

Its just a different way of making money.  Fortnite is free. You can literally play forever without ever paying a cent.  You and I probably don't value skins for ten dollars a pop, but some people do.   Fuck, there are people who spend 5 bucks a day on coffee and 10 bucks a day on cigarettes. I think they are morons as well, but I support their right to blow their money on whatever shit they want.  Its their money.

1/30/19 4:25 PM
1/1/01
Posts: 87839

If they were smart, the AAA games would popularize a new offensive slur like "Mookie" and charge people to have their character call someone "A fucking Mookie"  

1/30/19 4:54 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12538
DaveFu -

If they were smart, the AAA games would popularize a new offensive slur like "Mookie" and charge people to have their character call someone "A fucking Mookie"  

Or make kids pay money to be able to say things normally against the terms of services about everyone's moms.  So much money!

1/30/19 5:00 PM
11/16/17
Posts: 3555
Hurtsogood -
Thebonfirexm -
DaveFu -

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

I have no problem paying for dlc on AAA games but the fact kids are being taught to pay for horseshit skins and dance moves on stuff is going to fuck future gamers some how. 

Its just a different way of making money.  Fortnite is free. You can literally play forever without ever paying a cent.  You and I probably don't value skins for ten dollars a pop, but some people do.   Fuck, there are people who spend 5 bucks a day on coffee and 10 bucks a day on cigarettes. I think they are morons as well, but I support their right to blow their money on whatever shit they want.  Its their money.

Good point.

I'm a smoker and if it gets to 10 bucks a pack I'll quit haha.

Then again I pay for gamepass and Xbox live plus PS+ 

In the end it's all about personal choice

 

1/30/19 5:30 PM
3/5/14
Posts: 12539
Thebonfirexm -
Hurtsogood -
Thebonfirexm -
DaveFu -

I for one am not opposed to micro transactions. The online connectivity makes every format of game updatable and it is stupid not to take advantage of it and use it to make money. I understand that it helps other people foot the bill for my gaming. 

I have no problem paying for dlc on AAA games but the fact kids are being taught to pay for horseshit skins and dance moves on stuff is going to fuck future gamers some how. 

Its just a different way of making money.  Fortnite is free. You can literally play forever without ever paying a cent.  You and I probably don't value skins for ten dollars a pop, but some people do.   Fuck, there are people who spend 5 bucks a day on coffee and 10 bucks a day on cigarettes. I think they are morons as well, but I support their right to blow their money on whatever shit they want.  Its their money.

Good point.

I'm a smoker and if it gets to 10 bucks a pack I'll quit haha.

Then again I pay for gamepass and Xbox live plus PS+ 

In the end it's all about personal choice

 

Totally.  I paid for WOW for like 2.5 years back in the day.  Zero regrets as I enjoye the hell out of that game at the time.   Its all about what you value spending your limited time doing and whether its worth it to you.  Some people enjoy really odd shit that I don't understand myself, but whatever, I've been into some weird games over the years that most people wouldn't enjoy. 

Edited: 1/31/19 1:08 AM
3/12/07
Posts: 10352

I'm not sure about the philosophical reasons, but I can tell you the legal definition of gambling in most jurisdicitons.

Gambling has three elements, consideration (wager), chance, and prize (payout). When someone pays for a chance to win something of value through a game of chance, that is gambling. If it's a payment to win something of value through a game of skill, its not gambling. So, if you remove the payment, the chance, or the prize (or any combination of the three), it's not gambling. There are also some statutory exclusions, like the stock market.


Some jurisdictions have restrictions on video game activity, online sales, etc. that require other compliance that many people mistake for being gambling activity, but it's really the other statute. An example is the requirement in China to disclose the odds of randomly generated goods, like loot crates. It's not because it would be gambling if you didn't, it's because China has a law that requires the disclosure when there are randomly generated goods for sale, even if it is not gambling.

 

1/31/19 5:00 AM
9/20/13
Posts: 446

It's basically legal gambling for kids

1/31/19 8:33 AM
3/5/14
Posts: 12540
WikiTheWalrus -

I'm not sure about the philosophical reasons, but I can tell you the legal definition of gambling in most jurisdicitons.

Gambling has three elements, consideration (wager), chance, and prize (payout). When someone pays for a chance to win something of value through a game of chance, that is gambling. If it's a payment to win something of value through a game of skill, its not gambling. So, if you remove the payment, the chance, or the prize (or any combination of the three), it's not gambling. There are also some statutory exclusions, like the stock market.


Some jurisdictions have restrictions on video game activity, online sales, etc. that require other compliance that many people mistake for being gambling activity, but it's really the other statute. An example is the requirement in China to disclose the odds of randomly generated goods, like loot crates. It's not because it would be gambling if you didn't, it's because China has a law that requires the disclosure when there are randomly generated goods for sale, even if it is not gambling.

 

Yea, I guess the question with digital goods is the value of them?  Like do they actually have any real value since they are just digital.  Obviosly if you could resell the digital items to other players for money they have real value, but what about games where you can't resell them?  I'm just kind of rambling now I guess.

2/11/19 12:49 AM
3/12/02
Posts: 6740

Anything some people are willing to pay for is by definition something of value. This does not mean it has the same value for everyone, that everyone would even value it or even that it would have the same value to you in one set of circumstances as another. 

Using the cigarette example above, you could not pay me $100 to smoke a pack of cigarettes but having a pack might buy me over $100 worth of sexual services from my cell mate.

2/12/19 4:16 AM
3/12/07
Posts: 10368
Hurtsogood -
WikiTheWalrus -

I'm not sure about the philosophical reasons, but I can tell you the legal definition of gambling in most jurisdicitons.

Gambling has three elements, consideration (wager), chance, and prize (payout). When someone pays for a chance to win something of value through a game of chance, that is gambling. If it's a payment to win something of value through a game of skill, its not gambling. So, if you remove the payment, the chance, or the prize (or any combination of the three), it's not gambling. There are also some statutory exclusions, like the stock market.


Some jurisdictions have restrictions on video game activity, online sales, etc. that require other compliance that many people mistake for being gambling activity, but it's really the other statute. An example is the requirement in China to disclose the odds of randomly generated goods, like loot crates. It's not because it would be gambling if you didn't, it's because China has a law that requires the disclosure when there are randomly generated goods for sale, even if it is not gambling.

 

Yea, I guess the question with digital goods is the value of them?  Like do they actually have any real value since they are just digital.  Obviosly if you could resell the digital items to other players for money they have real value, but what about games where you can't resell them?  I'm just kind of rambling now I guess.

No, you're making a good point. This is one of the biggest issues in social gaming when the game is a casino-style game. If the publisher offers real world prizes (RWP) then regulators tend to see them as gambling, even if they don't require a buy-in. If they do require a buy-in, then it is gambling with RWP if the game is a game of chance (including all casino games)  Casinos and casino game publishers make their money by calculating the return to player (RTP) as less than 100%, but offering payouts that are much higher than the buy-in. This gives the player the perception that they can get ahead, but over time they will always make less than they buy-in. Most casino games are set between 80-90% RTP. I would argue that if the consideration/buy-in is always equal to the prize/payout, then it is a purchase, not gambling no matter if it's a game of chance or skill. Virtual goods can be argued to have any value so long as they can't be sold to others (there is a recent Washington State case that supports this with virtual coins). RWP has defined value, so it's one more factor that makes the game look like gambling and could be argued against the publisher.

 

Some non-casino game publishers stay away from RWP as well, but they really don't need to so long as the game is a game of skill. Even more so if the publishers doesn't require a buy-in. But the cost of fighting a legal battle over the nature of prizes and contests is often too much for publishers to gamble on (pun intended).