At this point we’ve all played the lottery at some time or another. Scratch ticket here, raffle ticket there – nothing unusual to want to get something for nothing (or hardly nothing). The definition of gambling is to “play games of chance for money; bet.”, it’s fair to assume that when you hear that you are thinking of card games, horse racing, betting on a sports team, or one of those gambling sites – not the video games your kids are playing!
Why are we even talking about this? Well if you follow gaming news like we do you probably heard that the Minister of Justice Koen Geens in Belgium, in light of Star Wars Battlefront 2 causing everyone to explode in rage over loot boxes, instructed the Belgian Gaming Commission to investigate video game loot boxes – and guess what they determined from their findings?
That at least three games were in violation of their gambling legislation – Overwatch (Blizzard), FIFA 18 (EA), and CS:GO (Counter Strike: Global Offensive by Valve) – their reasoning being that “Players can buy a ‘loot box’ against payment – which can give them an advantage in the game – without knowing their contents in advance.”
What Does This Mean For Gaming?
A Video Game ‘Loot Box’ Offers Coveted Rewards, but Is It Gambling?
Nothing right now – but for those companies mentioned above it means that if their games contain paid loot boxes, as currently offered in Belgium, are basically in violation of the gaming legislation and the companies are susceptible to being prosecuted under criminal law. To avoid this the loot boxes must therefore also be removed from the games. If that does not happen, they risk a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to 800,000 euros. When minors are involved, those punishments can be doubled.
Sounds scary right?
While it’s easy to laugh this off and say that it’s just one country – other countries could follow suit as well. While in my opinion that would probably be a good thing just to get rid of these darn loot boxes! In hindsight though it could mean bigger trouble for video game companies and the world of video games in which we live. Legal battles can ruin companies, and lives, let’s not let it ruin video games as well.
While loot boxes are annoying – they were basically funding some of the video games that we were enjoying for free – if you wanted extra loot or cosmetic upgrades and felt the need to purchase a loot box to get it, that was on you. For everyone else who didn’t care about the cosmetic part or the game we could just ignore loot boxes altogether. The problem was when you literally “needed” the loot box in order to get somewhere that you had been “locked out” or to simply enjoy the game – when companies are profiting off of that situation it is clearly wrong. Star Wars Battlefront 2 makers learned their lesson when the backlash was so great – they ended up removing the loot box system from the game completely and thereby saved a game that would have otherwise failed miserably.
Paywalls should not be tolerated – but we have to be careful where “legal battles” start, and how those wars are waged because they could have far reaching effects if left unchecked. Legislation regarding video games has to be carried out responsibly and there are various opinions on how this is being handled and how it will affect gaming as a whole. I personally would only indulge in the free loot boxes in games like Overwatch and Rocket League – what is your take on the loot box as a game of chance stance?
Future of Game Monetization
Battle passes are replacing loot boxes, but they’re not necessarily a better deal
So if loot boxes are out, how are games going to make money? Well I believe that everyone can agree that Epic Games has found a real winning formula with it’s Fortnite battle pass. Essentially it’s the same thing except you get way more value out of it and it isn’t setup like a “game of chance”.
The battle pass idea is basically a subscription for game challenges that once completed, unlock a set schedule of cosmetic goodies – you can even earn in game currency (v-bucks) to buy more battle passes, so you essentially pay once and play forever if you are smart with it. Other games are realizing that the huge success of Fortnite is impossible to ignore and they are following suit with their own “Battle Pass” programs – games like Rocket League and PUBG have already implemented the frameworks into their games and are ready to release this competing service.
Only time will tell which formula will keep these types of games afloat but right now it seems like the main goals are simply engaging gamers, and keeping them engaged – the battle pass right now is bringing players back week after week to play Fortnite so we’ll see if it helps other games as well or if it is just a fad that will fade.
Whatever happens gaming has a rich history and has been around in one form or another for decades now – it isn’t going anywhere, if anything it’s only getting bigger and it’s super exciting to follow the trends!
Hope you enjoyed this article, thanks for reading! If you have any comments or opinions on loot boxes or battle passes or the future of game monetization leave your comments below! Thanks!