Matthew HughesFormer TNW Reporter
Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twi Matthew Hughes is a journalist from Liverpool, England. His interests include security, startups, food, and storytelling. Follow him on Twitter.
Loot boxes are a controversial element in modern gaming. These virtual boxes — which you often have to buy with real-world cash — offer random items to be used within a title. These can be as simple as a skin that changes the appearance of a character or weapon, or something that radically transforms gameplay.
You never know what you’re going to get, and it’s for this reason why some have compared it to gambling. It’s a bit like pulling the lever on a one-armed bandit; you might make a couple of bucks, or you might hit the jackpot.
The Dutch Kansspelautoriteit (best translated as Gaming Authority; essentially the organization that regulates gambling in the Netherlands) has been looking into loot boxes for some time now. According to NU.nl, they have found that in some incarnations, loot boxes could be infringing upon Dutch gambling law.
The Kansspelautoriteit examined ten titles each offering this feature. In four examples, objects obtained from loot boxes can be sold for real-world money on secondary marketplaces, although the ombudsman hasn’t specified which games have earned its ire.
Some of these items obtained from loot boxes go for eye-watering amounts. On PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds, for example, an “Ivory School Uniform Set (Female)” goes for nearly $700 on third-party resale site pubgtraders. That’s nothing short of astonishing.
In these examples, the Kansspelautoriteit has concluded that the random (and potentially addictive) nature of loot boxes, combined with a resale marketplace, is effectively gambling. It has given the developers of the aforementioned titles eight weeks to adjust the loot box feature, or face potential fines and bans.
It’s worth pointing out that the Dutch authorities aren’t cracking down on loot boxes per se. In total, the Kansspelautoriteit looked at ten games, and only found four that were of concern. The other six don’t allow players to sell their items on other sites, and therefore do not violate local gambling laws.
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