Gambling Means Losing

From this interesting article, where the ESRB states that loot boxes are not gambling since you always get something.  In fact, they go on to compare it to collectible cards, where you may get a double, or a card you didn’t need.

The key argument here is the chance of loss in order for something to be considered gambling.  I can’t really think of any traditional gambling game where you leave with even a portion of your investment.  There’s no way to bet $20 on roulette and leave with something other than $0 or more than $20.  (This is not the argument around investments…)

Loss itself is an interesting thing to define.  I think most would associate loss to the concept of value.  You go into something with X value and leave with less than X.  Most times it relates to money, but there are certainly gambles that are not (like jumping out of an airplane and hoping the parachute opens).

The main issue I have is that it’s near impossible to provide a value metric against virtual goods.  It’s not a regulated market (it is a market), so an item in one game may be worth something different in another (like a name change).

It would be easy to argue that loot boxes provide no contextual value to a person, but not objectively.  If you already have that mount, then it has no value.  If you don’t, then it does.  If you’re in full epic gear, then more gear is useless.  So what loot boxes effectively do, is provide a floor value for virtual items.

This doesn’t dismiss the view point where the loot box is a way to reward a company for their efforts.  In that point, you’re actually always winning something, as the reward is the service you’re being provided.

Given that the both the objective value (the hat) and contextual value (the mount) typically have no value to me, I don’t use loot boxes.  In the case of F2P games, then my way to reward the dev is through anything but a loot box, first – like with Path of Exile or cosmetics in another game.  If there are no options, odds are it’s not a game I want to be playing (most mobile games).

All to say that I agree with the ESRB in their definition, as all loot boxes I’ve ever seen have something in them.  All those things have value to someone, so you’re getting something out of it.  People just need to assess what that value actually means to them.


5 thoughts on “Gambling Means Losing

  1. I, too, actually welcomed that statement from the ESRB. People can state their opinions on lockboxes and make arguments against their inclusion, but “think of the children” and “it’s like virtual slot machines, it needs regulating the same way” have never been good arguments considering the actual subject matter. Maybe someone will finally think of something new to say now.


  2. Gambling requires three elements – consideration, chance, and prize. I don’ t think loot boxes should be considered gambling per se, but I do believe they need to explicitly state the % chance of winning an item – and if companies don’t self regulate, someone should.

    Right now for all we know every loot box is a complete scam, as companies have no reason to lower their profits. I wrote about this recently. I had a box that had 16 items in it, of which, I really wanted 1 – but there was no mention if I had a 1 in 16 chance or a 1 in 1600 chance for that item. That is not fair to not disclose.

    Of course, I got it on the 16th box (with a box that doesn’t allow duplicates). Nothing stopping the company from programming it that it only comes on the 16th box. No reason to have fair rolls, or fair % chances. Every loot box is probably programmed for the sole exclusive benefit of the company. That is the part that needs to be fixed.

    To allow me to have a chance to make an informed decision, it should say the odds.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes and it’s new, but companies have already said that they have changed the drop rates in Asia compared to other markets that they do not have to report in – and that the percentage chances in Asia are not representative of the overall market.

        Take a guess if you believe their are better, secret odds in NA or worse, private odds =P


      • I prefer ignorance! I did read a report recently that 25% of income last year was from the “games as a service” model…that’s a huge chunk of change.


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