Online life sim Second Life is removing gacha mechanics later this month. Citing changes in the way gacha mechanics are regulated, the devs say they'll give players a grace period, so they won't be enforcing this change until September 1st.
What does this Second Life gacha mechanics removal mean?
In a blog post on the official Second Life site, developer Linden Lab cites a "changing regulatory climate" as its main reason for sunsetting gacha mechanics. If you're not familiar with gacha as a term, it refers to the way in which games like Genshin Impact allow players to trade currency for a chance at obtaining a random character or item. Gacha mechanics are essentially the same thing as loot boxes, and with governments around the world cracking down on loot box implementation, Linden Lab's decision makes sense.
In order to give creators a chance to alter their games within Second Life, Linden Lab says it's giving a grace period, which will last until midnight on August 31st. After that point, gacha mechanics will be a violation of the game's terms and conditions. Players are encouraged to report any gacha mechanics they see post-grace period using the Second Life "Gaming Policy Violation" abuse option. Sales for "known items" - that is, items that are quantified prior to purchase - won't be affected, so if your game is, for example, a fishing game, you'll still be able to sell bait for players to fish with.
Handily, Linden Lab provides an FAQ below the original announcement. The developer says subscription boxes, Linden Homes, and fatpacks - as well as any other "currently-allowed distribution mechanisms" - won't be affected by this change. Similarly, breedables - that is, pets within the game - won't be affected either. In essence, this is just a change to ensure that players won't be able to sell gacha packs or loot boxes of any kind.
Why is Linden Lab making this decision now?
Around the world, governments and regulatory bodies are cracking down on publishers including loot boxes or gacha mechanics in their games. A proposed law in Australia is looking to restrict the sale of these items to those over 18, for example, while UK research conducted earlier this year drew a "robust" link between gambling and loot box purchases. FIFA developer EA is currently entangled in a lawsuit over loot boxes in Canada and has been heavily penalized for their use in the Netherlands. It's likely Linden Lab sees the writing on the wall and understands that this thorny issue isn't going away.
If you're wondering what the difference is between gacha mechanics and loot boxes, there essentially isn't one. Both systems refer to ways in which players can buy boxes with unknown contents which are only revealed upon opening. They're usually non-refundable, so if you don't like what you get in your box, tough. Given the increasingly hostile attitude towards these systems - and the fact that leaked internal EA documents suggest the studio has been funneling players towards loot boxes - more and more developers are likely going to look to remove loot boxes from their games.
How do you feel about the removal of gacha mechanics from Second Life? Let us know in the comments below!