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The ESRB doesn't "consider loot boxes to be gambling"

13 October 2017

With that in mind, there has been calls from the gaming enthusiast crowd for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to classify loot crates, loot boxes and the sort as some form of gambling.

Whether you consider loot boxes as a form of gambling depends on your personal definition of gambling. But once games start charging real money for small, in-game items and whatnot, things begin to get troubling.

Dirk Bosmans, from European video game rating organisation PEGI echoes these statements to Eurogamer, saying "Loot crates are now not considered gambling: you always get something when you purchase them, even if it's not what you hoped for".

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Furthermore, the loot system can not fall under the gambling definition since digital items do not have intrinsic value. We think of it as a similar principle to collectable card games: sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while.

Only a handful of Asian nations have classed loot boxes as gambling, though the USA has considered legislating skin gambling: an industry fueled by loot box buys.

The ESRB already has categories for in-game gambling and real-world gambling.

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Players might buy several loot boxes within the game, then gamble the loot they scored to try and improve their haul. Skins are virtual game items, such as weapons and clothing, or even just a paint job for an existing in-game weapon. A system where it's possible to get nothing new or useful for your money sounds like gambling to me. While the items being wagered and bartered have no real monetary value, gamers put a price of thousands of dollars on the most desirable items.

Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. But it seems that ESRB only counts it as gambling if the players have a chance of not getting anything from the loot box.

The rating board explained its reasoning in a statement given to Kotaku, effectively saying that random chance loot boxes as used in games like Overwatch and Shadow of War don't constitute digital gambling since players are guaranteed to receive in-game content for every purchase. Loot boxes are an entirely different beast.

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Concerns will still be there that loot boxes are synonymous with gambling.

The ESRB doesn't