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Official UK Report regarding Loot Boxes in Games - clearly calls them gambling

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Loot boxes have been gaining a lot of notoriety lately as more and more stories are coming up regarding them, and more and more officials around the world are starting to take an interest in them. For those behind the times in regards to the situation, it was really kicked off proper with the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, in which EA attempted to heavily monetise the game via loot box mechanics, locking Star Wars characters behind hours and hours of grinding unless you paid money to get a chance to get them.

Not only did EA's pathetically lackluster attempt to defend these mechanics earn them the most downvoted comment in Reddit history, but it was one of the first times major outlets picked the story up and examined the dangers of Loot Boxes, forcing such a large-scale controversy that EA were forced to remove the microtransactions for months, revealing how badly balanced Battlefront 2's unlockable systems were due to how they were designed.

After that, more and more investigations, reports, and actions have occurred, determined to examine the legislation of Loot Boxes, and calling in these companies in order to have them explain themselves. This has led to many infamous incidents over the past few months, including Belgium banning loot boxes in both mobile and console games, causing many Triple A companies to try to defend themselves and keep loot mechanics alive, a hearing in which EA were infamously trying to pass loot boxes off as "Surprise Mechanics", among other things. 

The shortened end of the story is that while some countries have banned the practice, causing companies to try to defend and stop it, other countries have ended up not doing any action, due to the stance that if the games do not allow the gambling of cash for an item with real-world monetary value, it does not count as gambling.

However, lately, the UK have been having a rise of stories published revealing many many people who have had money lost due to these games exploiting in no short order - children, people with mental conditions, and those with addictive personalities (gambling especially) to keep going, either because they simply can't stop, or they do not understand that it is actual real money that is being spent in order to get these loot boxes, and then when parents attempt to chase up refunds, or what have you, they get nothing in response. 

It would appear that these stories springing up have now caused another investigation to spring up, as UK Officials have published a report today that heavily criticises and calls out these mechanics, and the pitiful defences that have been attempted in regards to them by the major game companies benefiting from these mechanics. In no short order, they examined EA's recent hearing, and surprise mechanics debacle, they discussed the harmful effect it can have on children, and people in general, who either don't understand the true mechanics at play, how exploitative they are, and how despite EA's defence of them being fun and engaging, many many, many players have come forth with evidence and accounts of the true nature of the mechanics, and how they aren't fun whatsoever, and most importantly - taking the stance that if a user is willing to pay real-world money to keep going for a slight chance to gain an item or advantage, there is monetary value to it, regardless if it can be exchanged back in for real-world currency.

It's a pretty interesting topic, although at the moment, it's anyone's guess if it will actually lead anywhere. If the UK does decide to take action to legislation of loot box mechanics, it could make a huge difference towards how they are perceived, and how things will continue from there. 

Source:

 

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Lol I feel bad for Jim as this Is all he goes on about these days instead of the bad weapon sets in dynasty warriors. Jokes aside I feel bad the UK worries so much on this issue. Stop giving kids access to your cards. It's like smoking I blame the person hooked and friends not helping them stop.  I grew up in a day and age where I could get skins and characters in gameplay and not a damn random box. Unless it's a free to play game like say destiny child I dont mind random cause they need to make money somehow. But otherwise I dislike them. But if they ban loot boxes like I tell everyone they will just move to exclusive season passes with items and characters you will only get from it. Honestly I see nitro field being what is going to be in games in the future. Its not a loot system but you almost have to pay to get stuff unless you devote all your day to the game.  Unless you dont work it's not a issue.  Some have told me on YouTube they unlock everything in like 3 days. I'm like I work 8 hours and have grad school. I can't waste my entire night on one game to simply unlock one character or skin usually @.@

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That story about the boy with mental health problems really hit me in the rage sternum.

I feel sorry for modern parents. The games aren't exactly open about this manipulative content and it suddenly showed up at one point. I'm still p*ssed at the ESRB and PEGI for being just as corrupt. NBA 2K19 had- ….oh wait, it was NBA 2K20, apparently. Had visual gambling machines that involved real money in some way yet was still rated E (ESRB) or 3. (PEGI) Meanwhile, Pokémon (I forget which one.) also had gambling machines but didn't use real money and got a higher rating.

Don't forget about those that have addictive tendencies and spent thousands on gambling, got help, then tried to escape into video games only for the whole damn process to start over. Some might not sympathise with the addicted and if you are one of them, I don't like you. It's so easy to get hooked on something and you never learn about it until it's too late.

So I hope this is good news. F*ck EA, f*ck 2K, f*ck Bethesda, f*ck Activism/Blizzard and f*ck any others I failed to mention.

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2 hours ago, Meta77 said:

Jokes aside I feel bad the UK worries so much on this issue. Stop giving kids access to your cards. It's like smoking I blame the person hooked and friends not helping them stop.  I grew up in a day and age where I could get skins and characters in gameplay and not a damn random box. 

Are you a troll? Like seriously, are you just goading people with these remarks that you always make about loot boxes and microtransactions? Because they tell of such a high level of ignorance and you're purposefully skirting around the issues that anyone is actually presenting.

Kids spending money is the least of anyone's concern. Kids aren't the targets.

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10 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

Are you a troll? Like seriously, are you just goading people with these remarks that you always make about loot boxes and microtransactions? Because they tell of such a high level of ignorance and purposefully skirting sound the issues that anyone is actually presenting.

Kids spending money is the least of anyone's concern. Kids aren't the targets.

I don't get your point here seeing as Meta77 is clearly not that fussed about Loot Boxes. He isn't saying that they are making kids gambling addicts, he's saying that if that common conception is true, then it should be the responsibility of parents to look after them.

So yeah, I'd hardly say he's 'trolling'.

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6 minutes ago, Plasme said:

I don't get your point here seeing as Meta77 is clearly not that fussed about Loot Boxes. He isn't saying that they are making kids gambling addicts, he's saying that if that common conception is true, then it should be the responsibility of parents to look after them.

So yeah, I'd hardly say he's 'trolling'.

Thanks. Pretty much this. I dont care for loot boxes, I honestly don't. I just get tired of people trying to get the government involved in gaming.

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Just now, Ryannumber1gamer said:

The viewpoint that parents should be held accountable is a load of absolute bull, and the simple reason for that is that the games industry actually hinders informing people of this.

I agree, I'm just pointing out that Meta77 wasn't saying what Blue Blood was alleging.

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11 minutes ago, Ryannumber1gamer said:

The viewpoint that parents should be held accountable is a load of absolute bull, and the simple reason for that is that the games industry actually hinders informing people of this. Not only does PEGI and the ESRB never take into account microtransactions, and loot boxes, giving the likes of FIFA a 3+/E for everybody rating, indicating that not much parental guideance is required to regulate this product for your child.

Better yet, other companies will underhandedly sneak them in later in order to not have microtransactions reflected in the rating at all - Black Ops 4, Crash Team Racing Nitro Fueled both being examples of this.

When it comes to regulating a video game, your average parent who is doing their job, and isn't very much tapped into what the games themselves entail will do this - they will look at the age rating, use that to determine if it's suitable for their children, and use that to make their decision.

That's also the thing that keeps letting companies get away with this tactic - because it is a moderately new thing, only raising to prominence in the last 3 years, a lot of the average consumer base is behind on it, and therefore don't even think about it being a problem. We're apart of this industry, and we know about microtransacations and all of the nonsense surrounding it. The average parent or consumer does not, and might do their job in regulating the child's games via the PEGI/ESRB ratings, but have it never cross their mind that these gambling mechanics would be a problem, period. 

That's how a ton of these stories start, the parents being unaware such a thing even exists, finding out when it's too late, trying to get a refund, only for the companies to give either useless responses, or wash their hands of it, because as long as they made their money, they don't care. 

The idea of blaming people for getting the government involved is a crock of shit. If you want to blame anyone for getting them involved, blame the greedy assholes at the likes of EA, Activision, and whoever else for pushing this so hard to the point the Government had to get involved. It's been pushed to the point legitimate slot machines are now being presented in sports titles, that is the point we are at. Blaming the consumer for this, and not the companies who got so greedy in the first place is a ridiculous notion.

I never said the game companies were not a fault. Point out where I do. But seeing as this is the UK if you guys want them to regulate this then let them. Hopefully we dont here stateside.  Again I have to state I dont like loot boxes.  I dislike them,  I hate them,  it's just or maybe parents are different these days. I'm 30. When I grew up games had hidden in them ways to order expansions and bonuses thr parents may not know of. Jazz jack rabbit,  ms word...some game with this wacky blue character.  I've been looking forever on the name but there was this super neat area I remember as a kid and basically was a movie editor program for kids and you could order it with a Credit card,  also early early mobile games required using my parents accounts to install them. I got in trouble once trying to use their account as they saw it on their bill statement and was not allowed to ever order anything on the phone again for years. I know parents can't see everything but like mine sometimes you got to learn these companies are doing this by this point and take some precautions

 

Again I'm not defending loot boxes >.>

10 minutes ago, Plasme said:

I agree, I'm just pointing out that Meta77 wasn't saying what Blue Blood was alleging.

Thanks. I doubt well all see eye to eye on how to regulate this. I just dont trust the government In gaming seeing how wild they were in the early 90s

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People should stop making the stupid, specious insinuation that the loot box cottage industry runs off of kids taking their parents credit card; because it's stupid and specious. Arguing such deliberately distracts from the fact that the companies implementing are purposely doing them in a way to exploit people; which is in fact the very thing that governments are typically supposed to prevent.

 

 

No amount of "keep the gubmint out of mah games" prevents it from coming off as corporate boot licking, either.

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8 minutes ago, Tornado said:

People should stop making the stupid, corporate boot licking insinuation that the loot box cottage industry runs off of kids taking their parents credit card; because it's stupid and corporate boot licking.

Sorry my viewpoint is seen as bootlicking. 😕 I'm just going off Jim's video bringing up the article again of the kid drawing their parents account at 6:26

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14 minutes ago, Meta77 said:

😕

Between blaming parents for the industry practices and insisting that letting companies run wild with microtransactions free of any consumer protection is the proper course, I don't think you are, frankly.

Quote

I'm just going off Jim's video bringing up the article again of the kid drawing their parents account at 6:26

I don't care what Jim Sterling says on any subject, but I especially don't care in the context of "here's a video that makes my argument for me" even if I was to assume you weren't missing the point of what he was saying when using it as evidence.

 

 

None of this stuff in the OP is news. None of this stuff is news on SSMB. The companies who implement MTX frequently deliberately balance and implement these systems to catch people who would be flagged in the actual gaming industry as having an addiction problem. There are entire seminars on YouTube where about how to do it effectively, and how to target those people.

Bringing up kids and parent's credit cards is a red herring because that's not who is being targeted or providing the majority of the money; and the only reason to do so at this point is to defend companies that are ready and willing to defend scummy exploitative behavior to each other but try to pretend it's fine to consumers.

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4 minutes ago, Tornado said:

I don't think you are, frankly.

I don't care what Jim Sterling says on any subject, but I especially don't care in the context of "here's a video that makes my argument for me" even if I was to assume you weren't missing the point of what he was saying when using it as evidence.

 

 

None of this stuff in the OP is news. None of this stuff is news on SSMB. The companies who implement MTX frequently deliberately balance and implement these systems to catch people who would be flagged in the actual gaming industry as having an addiction problem. There are entire seminars on YouTube where about how to do it effectively, and how to target those people.

Bringing up kids and parent's credit cards is a red herring because that's not who is being targeted or providing the majority of the money; and the only reason to do so at this point is to defend companies that are ready and willing to defend scummy exploitative behavior to each other but try to pretend it's fine to consumers.

Well ok I'm bowing out, cause while you may hate me your one of the people I actually like on ssmb. I'm missing the bigger picture and I'll claim ignorance. If it takes the gov over there getting involved than it has to then. I dont know honestly.

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21 minutes ago, Meta77 said:

Sorry my viewpoint is seen as bootlicking. 😕 I'm just going off Jim's video bringing up the article again of the kid drawing their parents account at 6:26

You don't seem to recognize the flaws in your arguements given. Especially given how these lootbox systems are made with the gambling mindset in the first place. Knowingly looking to exploit people regardless of age.

And such pressure can lead to them doing drastic things even outside a parent's control.

50 minutes ago, Meta77 said:

Hopefully we dont here stateside.  

You probably won't like to hear about the US moving against lootboxes too. Why you're so against it is beyond me.

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21 minutes ago, Jovahexeon Ogilvie Maurice said:

You don't seem to recognize the flaws in your arguements given. Especially given how these lootbox systems are made with the gambling mindset in the first place. Knowingly looking to exploit people regardless of age.

And such pressure can lead to them doing drastic things even outside a parent's control.

You probably won't like to hear about the US moving against lootboxes too. Why you're so against it is beyond me.

I work In gov. I've never seen so much corruption honestly and I dont know you guys maybe that's just soured my view of them some. But i can't do anything about it at my level

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2 hours ago, Jovahexeon Ogilvie Maurice said:

You probably won't like to hear about the US moving against lootboxes too. Why you're so against it is beyond me.

To be fair, some have expressed concern over the government getting involved. I believe the reasons were something like...maybe...historically based?

I personally can't name any examples but some have mentioned that when the government gets involved, things can sometimes become worse. Though I'm not sure how at this stage considering the lack of morals of the companies involved. I suppose they could stamp down further on censorship but it seems like Sony are already doing that themselves.

Anyway, if updating laws has to be made to screw over these b*st*rd companies, then so be it.

Pfff, surprise mechanics? That's gold for memes at least.

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44 minutes ago, Your Vest Friend said:

I work in government too and I still think the ones doing the exploiting should have the sharp end of a stick shoved up where the sun don't shine in terms of loot box regulation. They've brought it on themselves. 

See now, that line of thinking I can get behind.

 

2 hours ago, Meta77 said:

I work In gov. I've never seen so much corruption honestly and I dont know you guys maybe that's just soured my view of them some. But i can't do anything about it at my level

Not a good enough reason to have them do nothing and just let companies abuse the system. I'm willing to believe that such corruption is the exception rather than the norm. Regardless,  it's good that government are listening to people and helping fight a fight that they might not be able to without help.

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Loot boxes are designed to rope in whales who throw away cash with no concern and gambling addicts who cannot control themselves from spending. And although companies will never admit it, they’re aimed at kids too, who have no concept of currency. Loot boxes are designed to take people’s money. To excuse that behaviour is ridiculous, especially now that the practice has become incredibly predatory, with no forewarnings to the fact that a game has them.

I am all for their ban. Gaming publishers are getting too carried away with their money maker, to the detriment of their consumers and their products, and are willing to defend it to the death, considering they make more money than sales these days. These games aren’t hiding that they’re gambling mechanics, and need to be regulated. At the very least, put a warning on the age rating label to dissuade the easily influenced.

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Government regulation isn't neccessarily what everyone would have ideally wanted. The games industry could have reached a point and decided to self-regulate to try and bring some semblance of balance and structure to lootboxes, but instead they've kept on pushing the envelope because they know it's a legal grey area at the moment. 

Recent examples like Crash Racing's post-review microtransactions, and EA's "surprise mechanics" fiasco show that they're fully aware of the reputation these things have amongst gamers these days so they're now finding loopholes rather than solutions.

If lootboxes become officially classified as gambling, I'd be totally up for all future game releases being automatically given a PEGI 18 rating if it has microtransactions in it. If they legally become classed as gambling I don't see what other choice there'd be.

It's in the same way a DVD release of a film can have a higher rating than its theatrical release if one of the bonus features is of a higher rating than the main feature. Fifa might well be suitable for ages 3+, but throw in the gambling mechanics and oops, it's getting an 18. 

This obviously doesn't solve the issues of targeting adult players but the age rating would potentially be a strong detterent on it's own. Would they really release Fifa 21 as an 18+? I REALLY doubt it.

I also think it's totally fair that games that insist on in-game purchases (not dlc) moving forward should have to disclose it on the front of the box, in the same way a lot of Nintendo Switch titles disclose that there is a mandatory download to play the game.

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Microtransactions as a whole are not the same as loot boxes, and I don't think the UK government are looking to treat them as such (unless I've missed something). For example, what Acti did with CTR was scummy, but there's no chance element involved for getting the items you want. 

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20 minutes ago, Your Vest Friend said:

For example, what Acti did with CTR was scummy, but there's no chance element involved for getting the items you want

Unless you count the Pit Stop roulette.  For those who want a certain item that doesn't show up, they either have to wait for days or ridl their coins spending on items before it.

A situation a lot of people find themselves in, especially with the time-limited materials.

26 minutes ago, Your Vest Friend said:

Microtransactions as a whole are not the same as loot boxes,

Microtransactions are an essential part of the lootbox system.

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1 hour ago, Jovahexeon Ogilvie Maurice said:

Unless you count the Pit Stop roulette.  For those who want a certain item that doesn't show up, they either have to wait for days or ridl their coins spending on items before it.

A situation a lot of people find themselves in, especially with the time-limited materials. 

It doesn't unfortunately. Otherwise any sort of item on a rota would be classed as gambling, including stuff like magazines. 

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Yeah I'll admit I'm guilty of using the microtransactions and lootboxes terms interchangeably. They're definitely related but not completely one and the same so that's my bad. 

I'm not nearly as angry if the game straight up allows you to buy the specific thing you want. It obviously becomes an issue though when developers then manipulate the game to make the extra spend more viable than earning the thing through play.

Lootboxes meanwhile are a problem to begin with, and get even more problematic when you have limited-time rewards that are exclusive to the lootbox systems. Overwatch for example technically allows you to buy event skins during the event, but the in-game currency is only accumulated through lootboxes anyway.

Gambling is definitely something that can be cracked down on, the intentionally manipulative set up of game reward systems might be a bit more tricky.

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Update on things, the ESA (the Entertainment Software Association, who you might know from their recent scandals involving defending EA at the previously mentioned hearing that had Surprise Mechanics, as well as leaking tons of E3 attendees personal info) have made an absolutely pathetic response towards the UK's report, trying to bring up their same nonsense from before where they said that all odds would be required to be disclosed (which was their attempt to defend themselves at the last hearing). 

Put simply, it doesn't very much paint them in a good light considering the fact that the UK report outright accuses these companies as being purposefully obtuse as to misinform, and hide information.  

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