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ESRB and PEGI Don't Classify Loot Boxes As Gambling

October 13, 2017

By: Max Moeller


Lootboxes are becoming increasingly popular in our AAA titles, with Forza Motorsport 7, Shadow of Warand Star Wars Battlefront II among latest offenders. Some North American gamers have asked the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to classify the crates as gambling when rating games.

In an e-mail to Kotaku, the ESRB detailed their stance on the situation:


"ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player, unfortunately, receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible 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 other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.
While this may not be the answer gamers wanted, the ESRB does have a point. Gambling does not guarantee anything in return. Loot boxes do. The ESRB does have a "Real Gambling" category, which it applies to any games that wager real money. However, it's rarely seen because any title with real wagering automatically rates as Adults Only. Most retailers don't sell Adults Only games, so publishers tend to avoid that.

lootbox shadow of war
Shadow of War is rife with these randomized boxes. Source: Eurogamer

The European equivalent to the ESRB, the Pan-European Game Information rating system (PEGI), told wccftech that only a gambling commission could define what's counts and what doesn't:

"In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB (I think all rating boards do, USK in Germany as well). The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling. That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it’s done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that."
It seems there isn't much that gamers can do at the moment aside from continuing to speak with their wallets. Loot boxes are still a new form of microtransaction. While they aren't gambling in the traditional sense, they're still taking a chance on your money. Maybe a new type of regulation needs to form to reign these in a bit.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should the rating boards create some way to share information about monetization? Should governments step in? Share your thoughts in the comments below!