PEGI and ESRB weigh in on loot crate gambling kerfuffle

Because the player always received something, it was likened to buying collectible cards, where some packs will contain more valuable cards than others. Problems begin to arise when these loot boxes also employ a random factor, or worse, a pay-to-win system.

With games like Overwatch, Battlefield 1, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, and even the soon-tob-released games Call of Duty: WWII and Star Wars Battlefront II all featuring loot boxes of some kind, it's safe to say that this latest gaming trend is here to stay. Since most retailers won't touch AO titles, sales for these types of games would plummet for the simple fact that they would be hard to find.

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

In recent years, console and computer games have started including loot box purchases.

In this case, loot boxes are a game of chance. It might seem like the player is wagering their actual money, but since these items are not physically available, there are no gains or losses in concept.

The European agency responsible for awarding game age ratings in Europe has taken a position similar to the ESRB's when it comes to loot boxes. According to the ESRB's criteria, "Real Gambling" is any sort of wagering involving real cash, while "Simulated Gambling" means that the "player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency". It was implied that the "ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling". In other words, it's not gambling in and of itself that determines the rating, it's the stakes.

However, many of these virtual items sell for hundreds of dollars on platforms like the Steam Marketplace. Some feel the ESRB wanted to avoid flagging games with loot boxes because the organization is looking to protect the interests of publishers.

Games which include a loot box element need a gambling license, and the industry is closely regulated.

This is good news for developers wishing to continue implementing loot boxes, as a "real gambling" classification would be accompanied by an Adults Only (AO) rating.

A spokesperson for the ESRB told Kotaku that loot boxes do not qualify under either category.

Vanessa Coleman