UK lawmakers examine lockboxes, PEGI leaves definitions to gambling commissions

    
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The ESRB may not be interested in protecting gamers against predatory business model practices like lockboxes, but European regulators may be joining their Chinese counterparts in at least taking a look before casually dismissing concerns.

As Polygon reports, a member of the UK parliament, Daniel Zeichner, submitted formal questions to the UK’s secretary of state on topic, requesting information on her plan to “to protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games,” specifically on the Isle of Man, whose legal code refers by name to “in-game gambling and loot boxes.”

Meanwhile, the European PEGI – akin to the ESRB on this side of the pond – has said that it can’t rule on the issue for game studios because it “cannot define what constitutes gambling” because it’s not a national gambling commission – contrary to the ESRB’s statement.

“That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission,” a PEGI rep told Wccftech. “Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it’s done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.”

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Eamil

Ultimately their answer is the same as the ESRB’s – as long as the law doesn’t consider it gambling, they’re not adding “gambling” content descriptors. The difference is that their answer is phrased as a punt.

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George

I don’t know the right answer to those lootboxes problem. I never bought them, and I’m not tempted by them at all. So, it’s tangentially a problem of mine. It is in game like Star Wars Battlefront 2 because lootboxes are tied to the character progression, but I can always choose to not play it if I don’t like it or just ignore this “I must be the best”-bullshit. So, just a couple of tough on lootboxes:

1) Customers should fight the problem with their wallets, and not wait for some regulators to deal with it
2) Lootboxes can be a problem to people sensible to gambling. Companies should at least advertise the problem.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

Potentially habit forming games of chance using real life money. Doesn’t seem too hard to give a definition to gambling that would apply.

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Sally Bowls

Really?

Gambling is the wagering of money or something of value (referred to as “the stakes”) on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning money or material goods. Gambling thus requires three elements be present: consideration, chance and prize.

Do the virtual items, in a MMO have monetary value in a legal sense?

If they don’t have monetary value, then how can a lockbox be gambling? If I made a mobile game that charged you a dollar and then spun a roulette wheel and half the time printed “you win” and half “you lose,” but gave you nothing else, then that is not gambling; there is no monetary prize.

If they do have monetary value, then doesn’t that open a huge can of worms for MMOs?
If you defraud someone in EVE of virtual items that have monetary value, how is that not a crime?
If in my subscription game, I click on a resource node and sometimes get 1 copper ore and sometimes 2, then that is randomly giving me items of monetary value. How can loot boxes be gambling and mining in Elwyn Forest not be gambling?
If the items have monetary value, then aren’t there income tax consequences for those raid drops?

Loyheta
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Kickstarter Donor
Loyheta

I was giving a broader definition to gambling that would cover lockboxes. I just think there should be more thought put into these since they prey on the same habit forming mechanics that any other gambling does.

Definitions and language changes over time. There is no reason why lootboxes can’t be seen as gambling unless you hide behind the most strict sense of the current definition of gambling. When gambling is a game of chance for money or stakes and stakes are nothing but items of value. Then we get into the definition of value. If we look at TOR we can see that these items can be traded and sold on the GTN. They have value. GW2’s miniatures and dyes, the same thing. So to curb this and control the market other games don’t allow you to sell or trade.

Would it be such a horrible thing to just add everything individually to a cash shop? Then you can take away the value by making them bound to the purchaser or the person he gifts. Sure, things would have less worth because the rarity would be artificial (based only on cost instead of chance) but it would solve every problem these are causing. Sure it hurts the company but I honestly don’t care. I’m tired of paying a sub and buying something off the cash shop because its model is not in-game.

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Sorenthaz

This video hilariously sums up my thoughts.

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possum440 .

Short version: In 1997 Upper deck was sued. Upperdeck had the lawyers, the plaintiffs did not. Upperdeck won the case because the plaintiff lawyers never amended the RICO requirement as RICO was for organized crime and not “per individual tort”.

The Plaintiffs class action lawyers never did get back with the judge and in not doing so the judge also did not review the rest of the complaint or consider it.

In 2000 Upperdeck won and had the RICO charges dismissed and the judge then dismissed the rest of the case as moot because of the technicality of not changing the wording.

So before anyone tries to get card games, gambling boxes etc removed, the law will have to be changed so that judges have some reference to go on.

It isn’t that card games and gambling boxes are not gambling, it is because as of yet, there is no clearly defined description on the law books that can be enforced. until then, the loot boxes and card games win.

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Sally Bowls

Not completely facetious: the MMO could always just keep the servers on an American Indian reservation.

There are 244 tribes operating in 28 states doing $31 billion in annual revenue. They are exempt from corporate income tax and state income tax.

https://news.slashdot.org/story/17/10/12/161200/legal-online-gambling-could-return-to-the-us

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BDJ

I know that this might be a little far out there, but almost everything in life is gambling.

– Getting in your vehicle and driving to work is gambling.
– Eating fast or unhealthy food is gambling
– Leaving your job to follow your dream is gambling
– Driving way above the speed limit is gambling

I could go on and on and on and on. Its human nature to gamble. Most people do it every day without even knowing it. Gambling has been going on since 2000 B.C. This will never change.

Video games are a hobby. Sports cards are a hobby. Its not like someone is making you have these hobbies. If you are spending more money on lockboxes, than you reasonably should … then you need to seek help for your addiction to the root cause, which would be video games. How many of us can really just say “im done with gaming” and actually follow through with it? Probably not many.

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Chosenxeno .

LOOTBOXES RUINED MY LIFE. I LOST MY WIFE, MY KIDS, MY JOB. I’M TYPING THIS FROM THE INTERNET CAFE WHO’S ALLEY I NOW RESIDE IN. I HAVE NOTHING BUT A BOX AND MY PET RACOON SCRATCHY. DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID. JUST SAY NO TOO LOOTBOXES! I HAVE TO GO SPARE-CHANGING NOW. SCRATCHY LOOKS HUNGRY AND I THINK THE MANGER HAS NOTICED ME.

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Utakata

…tell the manager he or she needs to get that cap key unstuck on that machine your typing on for goodness sake! o.O

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Chosenxeno .

My message was urgent!

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BDJ

Lockboxes will never be removed. They are no different than buying sports cards. Odds per box” or “hits per pack” is all its needed. Cannot ban one without banning the other.

((Edited by mod. Please review the commenting code.))

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Utakata

…as there will always be articles about lockboxes until they stop becoming an issue. /shrug

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BDJ

They aren’t an issue.

/shrug.

Please tell me how lockboxes are any different than baseball/basketball/football cards. Don’t dodge the question please.

Sports cards have been around forever (early 1900s)

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Utakata

They are obviously not an issue to you. /shrugs again

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BDJ

The vocal minority not liking something doesn’t = something is god awful and should be eliminated. Lockboxes / GACHA systems obviously aren’t an issue to a lot of people. /shrugs again.

P.S. Thanks for dodging the question. Typical.

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0ptyk

Because video games already have an established core system, gameplay is not just about purchasing a random lootbox. Trading cards are just that –trading cards; that’s the whole core system behind those and you know this when you buy a pack.

Loot boxes are being built into the core of these games, replacing systems that worked just fine before, or that were better than what they’re being replaced with.

They are indeed an issue. Thats how it’s different. You’re welcome.

ps: sports trading cards is an archaic hobby that will probably meet the same fate as newspapers and magazines.

/shrug

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BDJ

Sports cards will never go away. The industry is bigger now than it has ever been. Its just more catered to towards autographs / jersey cards which are more expensive now.

The fact remains.

You buy a pack of cards for monetary value. You aren’t guaranteed anything. There are odds, just like with lockboxes. A majority of people don’t buy them for any other reason than the hits which have a big time money value in some cases. A lot of times these are sold for a lot of money.

There is no monetary value for lockbox items. Most of the time, the items are soulbound or bound to character/account. If they aren’t and a game isn’t set up for trading for real life currency, then its illegal to sell them anyway (in terms of the game’s TOS).

Keep wishing that they will go away. They won’t. If it’s decided that they are gambling, then the MMO servers will be hosted in states / countries where gambling is illegal. You will have live in a state where its alright to buy the lockboxes. This is no different than the fan duel / draft kings gambling delimma. There are 3-4 states where you cant do either. The rest are fine. It will be business as usual in the end.

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0ptyk

You still missed the point on how it’s different in gaming. All you just did was explain why sports trading cards have been viewed as “ok” over the years. No one cares about scratch-off lottery tickets or trading cards ethics because they don’t affect anything else, you can pass or play.

Again,

In video gaming, loot boxes replace core mechanics or change the game around to accommodate the loot boxes.

In trading cards, thats all you do is purchase RNG packs. THAT is the system, nothing is getting replaced or changed.

Now, let us pretend that Foil/Holo cards were NOT available in the normal card packs. Let’s say that you needed to save up 400 tokens to then claim a single Foil/Holo that was currently available for a limited time. People who collected these cards would probably have an issue with that as its RNG on top of RNG with added cost -which is what loot boxes do in video games –with the added downside of replacing the mechanics of a game.

Realistically, one could add the video game loot box mechanic to anything in the world (ie clothing store, food store, toys etc) and people like you would say: “yeah that’s ok and legit! Because trading cards do it!”. Its nonsense and you know it. Maybe you have a penchant for gambling since you seem to defend it with flimsy logic.

There, hope that clears things up a little more -even though it was a more descriptive example.

Heres a very short video explaining it all in case of tl;dr

rafael12104
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rafael12104

ESRB and PEGI both had the power of wet noodle. Their mandate is given to them by the very industry they are supposed to keep in check. This isn’t like the NFL or Baseball.

They could do more but only if the industry decides they should do more. And I don’t see that happening, ever.

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odin valhalla

When you need government to regulate industry from your free will you’ve absolved yourself of future complaints when government regulates other behaviors. So when they wont allow sugary snacks, the will not allow you to have more than 3000 calories, will not allow you to drive gas guzzler cars, wont allow you abortions, wont allow you health care they deem unecessary its 100% your fault when you support things like this.

If you lack self control and cannot self regulate, in a video game looking for the government to regulate it for you harms other people’s free will.

((Edited by mod. Review the commenting code of conduct and don’t do that again.))

roo woods
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roo woods

The liberty for children to be introduced to gambling at an early age via a game is a liberty I can do without .

I am all for liberty but it must be tempered with common sense laws . There seems to be a tendency for some people to hide behind liberty to justifying doing anything they want and that is a path that does not lead to liberty it is a path that leads to anarchy .

The EU is different to the USA in that we tend to want to a more caring and fairer society so our laws are sometimes more stringent to protect people . For instance we have laws against hate speech which the USA does not ( another liberty I can do without ) .

It is up to individual countries to decide what they find acceptable or not . I am British and I support our government looking into this practice but to honest I don’t know how practical any law against it would be unless the whole of Europe decides to legislate accordingly .

I also think equating this with people losing the liberty to have an abortion is rather silly .

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Ukrutor

Mind you, there are many things we take for granted nowadays: 8-hour workday; free weekend; paid vacations; mandatory safety gear at work; minimum wage; return and refund policy; date of production and composition of the product listed on the package; food standards; hygiene standards. Those are good and beneficial things, most people can agree about that without thinking about it twice. And yet, every single of those good things had to be fought for, and we wouldn’t have them today if it weren’t for regulation and legislation.

Corporations have no conscience, no sense of morality, no social responsibility. Their only criteria are profit and satisfaction of shareholders. They have totally no qualms about treating their customers and employees like a disposable resource. Regulation is the only way to force corporations to act reasonably, to provide them with sorely needed boundaries and limitations. Without boundaries and limitations for corporations, there would eventually be no liberty for people. We know, because we’ve already been there. The 1800s may be a great era to read about, but I wouldn’t want to live there as a commoner.

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Dug From The Earth

Your logic assumes people (of free will) wont try to abuse and take advantage of other people (especially for profit or gain).

The point of government regulation, is to protect people, from people who do that.

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Peter Couse

Your equating regulating predatory practices with a loss of liberty is quite a leap. I’m not going into a point by point with you since you have a very obvious agenda with what you wrote. However I will tell you that everything you listed as a loss of liberty also saves you and society a lot of money, and money is liberty in America right? Not everything can be reduced to a twitter feed or media talking points that only validate your pre-made conclusions.

However I will say you are right in one thing, nothing is going to happen with this issue, at least on this pass. This issue is way to new and quite honestly the ‘sins’ are not that egregious yet. Regulations are usually years if not decades behind technology and society, so I’m sure you will have the rest of your life to exercise you liberties and buy as many lock boxes as you want :)

Have fun.

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BDJ

Its no more predatory than the lottery or sports cards or scratch offs or casinos. People need to quit making excuses for their lack of willpower and self control. You know EXACTLY what you are doing when you buy loot boxes or a lottery ticket.

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odin valhalla

((Deleted by mod.))

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Chris Moss

Hell just go F2P if you are gonna add loot boxes to your game. Having to pay twice for the same game is BS!