Many game companies have developed a game feature that enables players to keep spending on the game long after its bought. These items are commonly referred to as loot boxes, and buying them is proven to be linked to problem gambling. Game developers staunchly deny this in the face of many countries and researchers saying they are crossing the line into gambling. The only difference between gambling and loot boxes that keeps all countries from throwing a gambling tax on them, is the lack of a cash payout. In all other aspects they operate the same way.
This year developers are trying a last ditch effort to get parents to shop for and purchase video games that are proven to be akin to gambling. Regulators are moving, but just not fast enough for parents to be well informed on the harmful additives in some popular games this holiday season.
You may have heard about loot boxes, or as they will be shown eventually on ads as “in-game purchases”. These are items with random outcomes that players are pressured to keep purchasing in a game, to keep up with other players. It might be cosmetic or give actual play advantage. A very important study has recently explained that purchasing any type is linked to problem gambling behavior.
PEGI and their US counterpart, the ESRB, have agreed to put an additional description on games with loot boxes, as in-game purchases but the process is still rolling out. Also the added description has nothing to do with the age rating applied.
Let’s take FIFA ’19 for example. FIFA ’19 is being prosecuted in Belgium for its gambling addictiveness. However PEGI rates it as PEGI 3, and has yet to add the in-game purchase descriptor. So parent will see a game suitable for ages 3 and up. The ESRB has tacked the descriptor on the game’s rating in the US, but retailers usually do not update display boxes as rating information changes, and many ads online predate the rating’s inclusion.
So who do you trust now to know what games are missing key information before buying games this year? Unfortunately, parent will have to do some homework when shopping for video games. The box or ad may not warn a purchaser about gambling features.
(Don’t) gift gambling this Christmas. Search online about a game, adding the term loot box to see if its included, or maybe even opt not to buy a video game as a gift this year.