The past few weeks there has been an uproar regarding Star Wars Battlefront II loot crates and microtransactions. With many within the industry claiming it to be rather exploitative.
The gaming community has taken a stand and it seems that the boycott is working as a number of investigations are under way to look into these loot boxes and microtransactions.
Most recently Hawaii state representative, Chris Lee in a recent press release presented the case calling out EA (Electronics Arts) and blaming them for using “Predatory Practices” using such tactics on children who are not “psychologically and emotionally mature enough.”
Lee, also stated that the loot boxes are considered as a part of gambling and games like these are virtual casinos stating that gambling is prohibited according to the law for consumers who are below the age of 21.
It was also confirmed via VTM News that the Belgian Gaming Commission’s verdict is that the loot boxes present in Star Wars Battlefront II do indeed fall under the laws of gambling prompting The minster of justice in the local federal cabinet to enter the fray in hopes to ban games like these in Europe entirely. “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling”. “mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous”.
Then followed Victoria in Australia where lawmakers also classified loot crates as gambling , although the onus seems to be preventing minors to being exposed to such games rather than banning them outright.
So that brings as to the all important question of whether Battlefront II loot crates can actually be termed as gambling. The answer as you might have predicted is not that simple. The idea here being that loot crates can be classified as gambling because you essentially don’t know what you will be getting. Battlefront II loot boxes are essentially obtained via credits which is the primary in game currency, which gives you a random Star Card.
The problem arises with the fact that Star Wars and its related properties are insanely popular amongst children of all ages and adults as well. With the main cause of concern being how it impacts children With Chris Lee going on to term it as a “Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money”.
But then again it also stands to reason with this ideology nearly ever other TCG ( Trading Card Game) and MMORPG loot can also be classified as gambling as there is no indicator of what you are going to get.
With a TCG you are buying a piece of paper whose value depends on the game’s popularity and it cannot be termed as an investment. If the TCG becomes less popular it’s value goes down the drain.
Similarly the loot in Warcraft with the stats on items varying for something that you pay $13 a month.
It’s difficult to classify all loot crates as “gambling” that’s essentially where the problem lies. However with Battlefront II Loot crates the problem is that they affect your in game progress. Something which is not a problem in games like Overwatch and League of Legends. Overwatch however is also under investigation in Belgium.
Perhaps the situation is best explained by the South Park Episode titled “Freemium Isn’t free” . The issue here is what constitutes gambling and ensuring that kids do not get addicted to what is widely seen as a exploitative money making strategy in mobile gaming.
EA is rightfully under investigation because their micro transaction model is borderline exploitative, it’s not just the Battlefront II loot crates, it’s also present in the recently released NFS: Payback and anyone who has played FIFA Ultimate Team will realize that the publisher has been at it for far too long.
Hence it stands to reason not every loot box or loot crate can be termed as gambling, however some restrictions to ensure that minors are not addicted to the notion is probably the right thing to do as long as it is done as a preventive measure only.