European gaming authorities have started investigating gaming loot boxes to see if they are a potential danger to young people.
The Dutch De Kansspelautoriteit, or Gaming Authority, issued a warning earlier this month about games with loot boxes, saying it is investigating the relationship between lootboxes and increased chances of winning.
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The Belgian Gaming Authority is arguing that, because loot boxes offer you hope to get something to improve your game, but not certainty, you are essentially playing a game of chance — gambling, in other words. The first targets are “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” and “Overwatch,” two games with extensive loot box rewards systems and, in the case of “Battlefront 2,” a complex internal economy players can’t avoid even if they want to (and judging by the backlash the game has received, they want to).
According to the Belgian site VTM Nieuws, the Authority began looking into the loot box system primarily out of concern for the game’s effect on minors. The concern, shared by the Dutch Gaming Authority, is that young children, under peer pressure to succeed at a game and possibly having a limited understanding of finances, might blow tons of money on loot boxes.
If the findings of either authority conclude the games do count as gambling, then either company might have to obtain permits to operate the games within those countries, or be forced to pay fines. Speaking as someone who’s paid for loot boxes in the past (don’t judge, I can get clean any time I want), it does have an addictive quality, and I’m not sure what that feeling would do to younger kids who don’t have even my scrap of control.
We’ve contacted EA and Blizzard for comment.