Australia turns up the heat on lockboxes

    
45

The controversy over lockboxes and their legal status continues to draw more attention from governments, with Australia now weighing in on the issue. Not the whole country, mind you, but the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR), which wrote a letter stating that lockboxes were considered gambling under the country’s laws.

While the VCGLR doesn’t typically oversee video games, its opinion does carry weight in the government and could prompt action on the proliferation of lockboxes in online games. The problem? The government body says that it’s very hard to regulate and that “there are a lot of variables at play.”

“What occurs with ‘loot boxes’ does constitute gambling by the definition of the Victorian Legislation,” wrote VCGLR Strategic Analyst Jarrod Wolfe. “Unfortunately where the complexity arises is in jurisdiction and our powers to investigate. Legislation has not moved as quick as the technology; at both State and Federal level we are not necessarily equipped to determine the legality of these practices in lieu of the fact the entities responsible are overseas.”

Belgium and Hawaii recently had hard words for the practice of lockboxes in video games, while the Netherlands and France are investigating the scene. Some MMOs are getting ahead of the controversy by eschewing lockboxes in their business model, including City of Titans, World of Warcraft, Monster Hunter World, and Dauntless. Our opinion? Lockboxes suck.

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Estranged

Has the MOP staff burned any lockbox makers at the stake as of tonight?

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

The stand-out point to me is that it’s specifically the VCGLR getting involved.

Normally anything related to video games in Australia falls under the federal Classification Board (the one’s who put on the ratings and can ban that South Park game because of alien butt-probing). But they’re just there to count how many times a boob flops out in Game of Thrones, they’ve never been related to gambling.

So that the Victorian Gambling & Liquor is looking into this is something far more intense as this is their entire job, there is nothing else ever which has crossed over into video game territory before regarding their role or power.

But as I must stress. This isn’t “Australia” as much as it is specifically Victoria. That’s like saying “USA puts on the heat” if it’s just Hawaii. Important yes, nationwide, no.

Although in terms of states to have an impact, Victoria is an important state (and I am not just saying that because I live in Vic). Melbourne is a key city now for gaming and I reckon due to wealth distribution it’s entirely possible Victoria has a huge chunk of gamers compared to other states.

But if you want this to hit critical mass, you’ll need New South Wales on-board (aka you’d all know it as the place where Sydney is), that’s the most popluar state. Also important would be Queensland.
The rest… will add extra fuel to the fire, but might not be critical, not unless you’d need all states for some kind of blanket ban.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

G’day, mate! Welcome to Australia!

Lockboxes: Legal. Gay marriage: Illegal.

Reader
Stropp

Only partly true. The plebiscite voted overwhelmingly to make gay marriage legal. I believe the legislation to make it legal is before the parliament now and should be enacted before Christmas.

Reader
A Dad Supreme

Only partly true. I believe the legislation to make it legal is before the parliament now…

So it’s not legal. Fully true.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

Well it’s not illegal to be gay and civil unions have long been a thing for same-sex couples, I believe a few states even allow same-sex adoption.

But it’s the specific sticking note of if ‘marriage’ will be allowed has been something which the vast majority of the population has desired for a long time (we know this via polls), but the government of the day either didn’t think it important or is well, religious (religion holds back Australia hard, thankfully their influence is dying).

But as Stropp pointed out, it’s expected to be legal before the end of the year, provided some religious dick-bag *cough*George Christiansen*cough* doesn’t hold it up. Unlike other places, there isn’t a huge amount of hardcore intense homophobia here, there’s a bit, but relatively tame compared to other places.

Here it’s more someone will get on TV or write a piece saying “Oh think of the children!”, so it’s more moral outrage compared to “YeeHaa, com’on bois’ get the rifle, we’re goin’ fag-huntin’!”

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Schlag Sweetleaf

.

throw another box on the barbie.gif
Reader
rafael12104

Looks like a great time in Outback to me. I bet it is down right comfy and warm out there.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Jack Pipsam

Yep because that’s Victoria for sure ;3

Reader
Wanda Clamshuckr

Personally, I’m glad that enough bitching and awareness is causing change in the perception of regulators towards lockboxes.

That said, I think some people need to tone down their zealotry and over-generalizations. I’ve been watching this topic pop up regularly in the past month, and the discussion from some voices is pure acid. I think Cash Shops and lockboxes have been a plague on the industry for years as well, but I don’t feel a need to focus that into flaming, rabid, irrationality.

Regulations? Check. Eradicating some systems? Check. Calling for widespread unemployment and disaster on entire swathes of the industry? Uh, no. There are better ways to enact change than to hit the nuke button.

Besides. Too many people have gotten a taste of riches, or bathe in Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with money from lockboxes. They will be altered to make them palatable, so the various governments are content. Regulation also generally means taxes on income gained from items like this, so the various international governments will financially gain as well. It would be absurd to think this revenue stream is going to *poof* disappear.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

“There are better ways to enact change than to hit the nuke button.”

This is not true because of your very next statement:

“Besides. Too many people have gotten a taste of riches, or bathe in Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with money from lockboxes. They will be altered to make them palatable”

Sorry. Keeping my foot on the gas until it’s nuked. Right now I’m doing some research into securities fraud for our friend from the other day Evan – for the SEC. I don’t think it will lead anywhere significant but I’m doing my best!

Reader
Wanda Clamshuckr

This is not true because of your very next statement

It’s only untrue in your mind.

See, you can “keep your foot on the gas until it’s nuked”, but it’s a fool’s errand. Lockboxes are going to evolve, not disappear. There’s too much money involved, and the government wants their slice of that pie.

I see age verification and consent, and release of the odds of winning items, as well as tweaking of the more insidious models.

Look at it this way: gambling isn’t outlawed. Casino’s are a multi-billion dollar industry. However, to partake, you have to be of the age of majority and..that’s it. After that it’s up to you to control yourself.

They aren’t going away. They are just going to be managed.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

I wouldn’t get my hopes up if you’re on the “i want them to disappear forever” train. They will simply alter them in a way to skirt the boundaries which may or may not be set.

Even now it’s not entirely gambling as in the complete loss, i bet a $20 at the track or at a casino and i lose, that $20 is just gone, i didn’t get a thing. MMO’s not so much, i got chit for the $ just not the chit i wanted. The reality is i got something for that money.

Then you have respectable games such as ESO, there is probably the most respected (that i know of) way of handling boxes, with the gem build up you can literally buy exactly what you want at some point.

SWL that’s very decent too without getting onto specifics, but even there you can get what you want, and having an exchange to covert game currency to real life money, you can eventually get what you want without spending a dime if that’s your thing.

Then you have EA and you know what, they sicken me, so i’m not going to dive into that, but as above there are prime examples that respectable companies can provide respectable options.

This is, i know another topic, but isn’t buying ships for a game that does not exist a gamble, so all crowd funding itself is the biggest gamble of all. Where is the gambling outrage for that, isn’t dropping a thousand dollars to enetr and alpha pretty much a gamble the game will see the light of day too, and don’t even get me started on the stream sponsoring that goes on in the thousands, omg what a joke that is. I know that’s not gambling but a prime example of tosing your money away, but wait, if that’s what turns your crank then why should i or anyone else call exception to this?

The problem is not the lockboxes. It’s what people gather around with pitch forks and torches over, omg, someone is enjoying themselves and I DON’T APPROVE OF IT. And with lock boxes it’s mostly that “you” don’t feel it’s fair to you when someone can buy what you want to grind or earn. Boohoo for you, lol.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

“And with lock boxes it’s mostly that “you” don’t feel it’s fair to you when someone can buy what you want to grind or earn”

That doesn’t represent me at all. I don’t like lockboxes because it steers development towards gambling and it attracts the worst sort of people into the hobby I used to be quite fond of – before it became a cesspool of exhaustion timers, gambling, developer laziness and pay to win. And I personally believe that the sort of trash that created lockboxes attracted more trash with having people pay for their risk through crowdfunding. They are seeing how far they can go; just how stupid the average gaming consumer is. It seems MAYBE they found just how far they can be pushed before some pushback occurred.

When I read about the gaming industry having to slash 25% of it’s workforce and all kickstarter events going belly up it will be a fine time indeed. It has been a necessity for a minimum of a half-decade now.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

I enjoyed reading your perspective on this very much and is an excellent point. Not trying to start a flame war here however this does back up what i was trying to say, “I don’t like lockboxes because it steers…”

“You” don’t like them for a different reason than what i assumed most don’t like them for, which yea i have to completely agree with you on this as it’s very true.
Gambling unfortunately is an addiction, but i’m not reading any stories about people losing their home, their families, their jobs over lockboxes?

I think the problem is more about what we like or don’t like. I don’t particularly think lockboxes are great however, i dunno for me now (they have been around so long just gotten used to them) they do add a little spice to mmo’s, and even more so when you love the game.

I loathe crowd funding as to me that’s a massive gamble with your money so i don’t support it by contributing to it, it’s very much that simple.

I loathe and am at a loss for how people throw thousands of dollars at streamers, mind = blown, and here again i certainly don’t contribute to that. But that’s a gamble as they could switch off 2 minutes later, or be banned for life and wow you’re out a G.

If you throw a thousand at a streamer what do you get, absolutely nothing but the satisfaction that you feel you are supporting them, so who’s to say that if someone threw a thousand at lockboxes whom actually do get something also has the feeling that they are supporting the game they love, or someone who throws a thousand at a game they hope will get made one day, but could potentially end up with nothing more than a missing thousand dollars.

If you take these examples the only thing that isn’t a gamble are the lockboxes as you are getting value for your money, it’s the least form of gambling of the those 3 things.

Reader
rafael12104

You know, I’m all about choice. I have been preaching it for a long time. And if and when lootboxes aka lockboxes are done responsibly I have no problem with that.

But that is not the trend. And I’m not just talking about EA. GW 2, aka NCsoft, Activision in CoD WWII, you name a new game and you will are likely to find the predatory lootbox.

So, if the industry will not reign in the illicit use of these boxes to not only make 30 times the profit, but also keep customers coming back for more and more, than we have too. The governments have too.

And it is about children and all that bs. Lol. As an adult, or someone who pretends to be one, I can see what is going on here. But dollars to donuts kids don’t. Even young adults don’t. The lure of winning something is, well if it must be said, addictive. And so is getting another shot at playing that game of chance again. Because, that is what you feel when you get that bad ass rare shiney from a loot box, a win. And if you don’t win, you feel disappointment and that can easily be mitigated by buying another box! Thus the cycle begins.

I don’t think it matters what we may legally define as gambling. What matters is that this game of chance EA and others are using is doing much more than dishing out loot. It is habit forming and destructive.

They have a chance here, EA and the rest. They can regulate them, keep them away from the kiddies as much as possible. And as you said, use them responsibly. But up until now, there is no sign of that. And if that is the case, and I hate to be an absolutist about this but I’m with Chrisanne below:

Burn them all. Burn them all right down to the ground.

Andy McAdams
Staff
Kickstarter Donor
Loyal Patron
Andy McAdams

I wholeheartedly disagree – the problem is 100% lockboxes. I’m carrying around the pitchfork for torch for lockboxes because instead of allowing me to outright buy the thing I want from the cash shop, I HAVE to get gamble to get things I want. I can’t get them through direct purchase, I can’t grind for them. I just have to spend money and hope. No one has ever said, “Man, I’m going to play that game because it has lockboxes because that’s game mechanic I just love.” No one is ever excited to log into spend money to open lockboxes to maybe get the thing they want.

Additionally, as Armsbend pointed out – publishers are starting to find more reasons to FORCE you to purchase lockboxes. They are find more ways to make you spend more money to get the exact thing thing — there’s no additional benefit to me as the player, but it does provide more money to the publisher.

Gaming (and economics as a whole), is a symbiotic relationship. If one side is getting consistently shafted – the short end of the stick it doesn’t work and there’s a problem. Gaming publishers are doing this – they are charging us more, giving us less for each dollar spent, and touting it as a feature and as if they are doing us some kind of goddamn favor in the process.

Like repealing net neutrality rules – if you aren’t pissed off about this, you probably aren’t paying close enough attention.

xpsync
Reader
xpsync

All great points and i completely agree with you but again “you” don’t like them for reasons not related to “gambling as a problem”.

Everyone who does not like them is playing the “Gambling is an Addiction” card. When that’s not their real concern with them.

The problem i was trying to point out is with peeps throwing money at these things.

People whom stream, would they stream if they weren’t getting paid well? No so all the power to them, me lol I’ll play the game instead, to me it’s insane to think people support this but that’s me. But… If people like to throw money at them, great for them.

Paying for game ideas which rarely see the light of day again, show me a finished product we’ll talk. But… If people like to throw money at them, great for them.

Lockboxes again lol, But… If people like to throw money at them, great for them.

The problem is the people whom support all this, but again if that’s what they like to do, no one is going to stop them over what our gripes may be about them.

Reader
rafael12104

Yes, baby! YES!

Now, now, let’s not get too excited because as our own Aussie Jack pointed out there are different commissions and definitions depending on the territory. But the visibility of this, is an obvious win.

Now, let’s see what other shoes drop.

Reader
Chrisanne

Burn them all!

Reader
rafael12104

With fire!

Reader
Schmidt.Capela

Not the whole country, mind you, but the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR)

Victoria is the second most populous Australian state, with more than a quarter of Australia’s population and economy. It might not speak for Australia as a whole, but it’s still important.

While the VCGLR doesn’t typically oversee video games,

It oversees gambling. Which means VCGLR has the legal standing (and the legal duty) to require anyone that peddles gambling, including video games, to acquire the proper licenses and tailor their activities so as to minimize the harm caused to anyone, and in particular to children.

Besides, if I understood this news correctly, this means that, as of now, lockboxes are legally defined as gambling in Victoria. That ought to pull some ratings boards out of their inertia.

Reader
rafael12104

Yes. Exactly. That is my understanding and conclusion as well.

Reader
Zen Dadaist

Inb4 absolutists that think there are only 2 possible options: lockbox hell or £90 base games that then sell everything else as DLC.

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

Video game developers didn’t make any money before lockboxes and dlc.

Most consumers are retarded of thought and are so easily pliable to the corporate will.