Today's a really bad day if you're a game developer who has a loot box monetization system in your game. A study undertaken by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee has found psychological links between loot boxes and gambling as reported by gamesindustry.biz.
The Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee is a Senate Committee with a mandate covering communications, the arts, energy, and the environment. One of their more recent inquiries was titled "Gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items"; you can download the ECRC report on the loot box issue here. The inquiry sought to find out whether or not loot boxes may be harmful, specifically whether they constitute a form of gambling and the adequacy of current consumer protections on the practice.
In summation, the report found that loot boxes are more or less a form of gambling and that Austrailia's protections and legal frameworks for this monetization scheme are "largely absent". The report was based on a survey of over 7,000 gamers, just 2,000 short of being a classic meme.
The report recommends that loot box systems which meet the psychological and legal definitions of gambling should be restricted to gamers of legal gambling age. Additionally, systems which allow for monetary gain are recommended to have the same level of oversight placed on them like any other gambling business like a casino or sports bookie. The report further recommends that ratings agencies raise the recommended minimum age for games which contain these systems and consider adopting a "Simulated Gambling" content descriptor as the US' Entertainment Software Ratings Board has already done, and the European PEGI has taken stronger actions on it requiring in-game purchases content descriptor to be on physical boxes.
This news comes on the heels of 16 gambling regulators signing a joint letter on the loot box kerfuffle. Loot boxes have been part of video games for quite some time now, but it looks like things are shaping up to change in many places throughout the world.
What do you think of the Australian ECRC report on loot boxes? Do you think they are essentially the same as gambling or is it different enough that it warrants distinction? Let us know in the comments below!