Loot Boxes and Governmental Opposition to “Video Game Gambling”


For better or worse, the inclusion of “loot boxes” have been a staple of modern first-person shooter games over the past several years. These boxes reap rewards for players in the form of animations, weapons, and in-game credits. At the same time, there lies a legal issue with the virtual crates: the randomness of what players draw from their boxes. Every loot box result is random, and the easiest way to obtain them is to pay for them with real-life money. This brings up the question: “Do loot boxes constitute as gambling?” At the moment, fifteen different European nations, Australia and the US, are observing said question. Currently, the legality of loot boxes hangs in the balance all over the world.

With the conduction of studies in Australia and Belgium, the aforementioned seventeen countries lean more towards the argument that loot boxes are indeed illegal gambling sources. Not only that, a study in Australia this September indicate that the boxes are even more addicting than other gambling sources, such as trading card games. Moreover, some third-party websites, illegally in many cases, offer the purchase of loot boxes. While this specific issue of website providers of seems to be wider in scale for the United Kingdom, game developers and providers alike must understand their products and the legal boundaries they run the risk of crossing.

This marks the second attempt to block out the financial problems sparked by the boxes. As far back as April of this year, they were targeted by the country of Belgium. Only then did other nations try and follow suit, but video game companies have far from taken this lightly. The controversial producer of microtransaction-filled games, Electronic Arts, also known as EA, is especially defensive of loot boxes against new regulations. This is evident when looking at their main revenue stream. A whopping sixty percent of all EA’s profits can be attributed to loot boxes. Losing out on this market by having it declared illegal would be a substantial blow to this company. This can be seen in EA’s blatant resistance of this law when publishing their annual “FIFA” series of games. In their most recent installment, “FIFA 18,” EA is being put into question for not complying with the new regulations in Belgium. In this country, the current laws require all games with loot boxes to declare that the crates, as well as the game itself, contain elements of gambling. In spite of this, EA has yet to follow this law accordingly. Now, the company is under the scornful, watchful eyes of the Belgian government.

The new rules in regards to the boxes make it uncertain that these boxes are really less trouble than they are worth. The fate of EA is also left for pondering, as it is unlikely that EA could make a sound financial recovery from the severity of their losses. In the end, whether or not this feature becomes a footnote in gaming history is a question only time will provide a clear-cut answer to.