Many of this fall's games, including Shadow of War, Destiny 2, and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II, feature systems in which you can spend real money to get randomized gear in the form of loot boxes. Many gamers see it as gambling, and that in Teen-rated games it makes for easy preying on young kids and young adults just under 18.
As a result, the ESRB and PEGI limit themselves to tagging games that contain either Real Gambling or Simulated Gambling.
Contrary to popular opinion, lootboxes apparently aren't exactly gambling, and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) won't designate them as such.
In recent years, console and computer games have started including loot box purchases.
China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore have all taken action to regulate skin gambling and loot box trading.
"ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling", the statement reads. We think of it as a similar principle to collectable card games: sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while. But the ratings board does not agree.
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The ESRB also noted it does advise players of the inclusion of microstransactions, as the company "does disclose the ability to purchase in-game content via the Digital Purchases interactive element, which will accompany the assigned age rating and content descriptors for digitally delivered games and apps". The ratings board told Kotaku that, because lootboxes are always guaranteed to give players something for their money, they can't be considered gambling-the latter has no actual guarantee of winning anything.
The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017. "But other times you'll end up with a pack of cards you already have".
Dirk Bosmans, from European video game rating organisation PEGI echoes these statements to Eurogamer, saying "Loot crates are now not considered gambling: you always get something when you purchase them, even if it's not what you hoped for".
Loot boxes are a hot topic right now, with Middle-earth: Shadow of War and its unnecessary microtransaction push at the very centre of the debate.
For them, the concept of gambling implies the literal game of chance in which people might or might not get something in return for their money.