Loot Boxes – Gambling?

Zander Kelly
By Zander Kelly January 12, 2018 11:42

The loot box collection menu in Star Wars Battlefront ll (2016) (photo by Kaitlynn Kenney)

By Zander Kelly

It was widely reported that gamers around the world felt outrage recently when Electronic Arts Games released the highly-anticipated game, Star Wars Battlefront ll (2016).


When players had started the game, they realized characters like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader, were unavailable for new players.


The Game uses two types of in-game currency that help to unlock loot boxes, which are items that contain random characters or upgrades to an existing character.


Players are able to use credits earned through hours of gameplay or crystals, which can be bought with real-life money, to unlock loot boxes. The cards gained from these boxes come in various levels of frequency and more money can be spent to make them better.


Games such as Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 have used random item-dropping stores where weapons can be purchased with real money and loot boxes. The real trouble with Battlefront ll is how much time or money it requires to unlock heroes and upgrades.


At the time of the game’s release it would have taken a player 40 hours to earn the 60,000 credits required to unlock a single new character.


This contrasts with games like Overwatch where for the full price of the game you have access to every playable character and all items can be found through loot boxes. These are purely cosmetic, such as spray paints or costumes.


Since the outrage over the high prices, with some fans saying it feels like they are paying for the game many times over, EA has drastically lowered the prices of many characters and upgrades. But this raises a question: are loot boxes gambling?


“[Magic: The Gathering] has got that feeling too. A lot of people hate that idea that people can come in and buy the top deck,” said Shawn Cyr, co-owner of CG Realm game store.


Magic: The Gathering is a card game structured on buying packs of random cards to try and strengthen your deck and beat other players.


“It would be completely different if they had made [Star Wars Battlefront ll] free, and you had to earn all these upgrades and could pay for loot crates. But the fact you pay $80 for a ‘triple A’ title?” said Cyr. “That’s absolutely insane. You shouldn’t have to buy the game multiple times or play the game for 300 plus hours to be able to play the game properly.”


The nature of loot boxes is to encourage players to spend real money on crystals to gain more chances at getting more rare and powerful items rather than slowly collect credits through multiplayer gameplay. This could be considered a form of gambling.


The Belgian Gaming Commission has recently launched an investigation to see whether or not this is the case.


“Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child,” said Belgian Minister of Justice, Koen Geens.


Sean Mangin, manager at Brimstone Games, disagrees with the notion.


“It’s always been a mechanic. It sounds like they’ve just adopted the mechanic that trading card games have used for years, and put them into online products,” said Mangin.


Whether or not loot boxes are gambling, it is hard to argue. The way EA Games handled them in Star Wars Battlefront ll has become one of the worst PR nightmares for a game company.

Zander Kelly
By Zander Kelly January 12, 2018 11:42

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