Several governments are calling for more protection of minors in video games with loot boxes. In an application, they advocate viewing loot boxes as a game of chance and protecting young people from them. Gambling in video games has been an issue for several years. Loot boxes or even a new, casino online in the popular open-world game “GTA Online” fuel the debate. Pointer gives an overview.
What are loot boxes?
Lootboxes first appeared in Asian video games in the mid-2000s. In the meantime, they have become an integral part of many popular games such as the sports simulation “FIFA 19” or the Battle Royal game “Fortnite”. The boxes can be bought with real money. They contain virtual objects. As in the case of “Fortnite”, these can only be cosmetic, for example, a new skin for your own character. But they can also have a significant impact on in-game success, as is the case, for example, with the Ultimate Team game mode in FIFA 19. The content of the boxes is random, there are common and rare items. So if you are unlucky, you will only get bad items that are significantly less worth in the in-game market than you spent on the loot box.
The FIFA 19 Case – Gambling Or Not?
Especially the game mode “Ultimate Team” of the popular soccer simulation series “FIFA” is criticized again and again. In the game, you can buy packs containing real players for real money. Good players significantly upgrade a team so that you can be more successful with them in online games. The game mode therefore falls into the “Pay to Win” category. Often, even hundreds of euros are not enough to build a strong team from the start. A similarity to gambling can hardly be denied.
This is particularly problematic because the game is released from the age of 0. The purchase of packs for real money is only permitted from the age of 18, but the safety regulations are easy to bypass on the consoles. In Belgium, you can no longer put any money into “FIFA 19” since the beginning of this year. The Belgian government declared loot boxes inadmissible. Developer Electronic Arts reluctantly relented, removing in-game purchases from the Belgian version of the game. However, the company sees no gambling in its in-game offers. EA staff member Kerry Hopkins said this to a UK parliamentary committee. She referred to the loot boxes offered by EA as “surprise mechanics”.
A casino in “GTA Online”
Recently, a new DLC for the open-world game “GTA Online” caused a stir in the gambling debate. The free update is called “The Diamond Casino & Resort” and brings an extensive casino to the fictional city of Los Santos. Games like roulette or blackjack can be played there. Use is the virtual currency “GTA-Dollar”, which you can also buy for real money. 8 million GTA dollars cost about 75 euros. In Germany, however, GTA dollars purchased for real money may not be used in the casino. Only GTA dollars earned through missions or other in-game activities can be wasted at the casino. This restriction does not exist in many other countries. As a result, the DLC is not available in over 50 countries. Developer Rockstar Games is scratching the real gamble with the DLC. Since the game is only from 18, minors should not come into contact with the GTA casino, at least purely legally. The reality is probably different.