What We’ve Wrought

Appropriate link to Hawaii coming through with tabled legislation on Loot Boxes.

It’s a bit like Icarus flying too close to the sun, and of course it’s EA that triggers the change. They are part of the 1-2 punch of game developers after all.  There are 2 main points to this, restricting loot boxes as if they were gambling (21+), and displaying loot odds.

Now, if I recall China did the same a few years ago.  Blizzard complied by giving the loot boxes for free when you bought currency.  If you’re not buying the box, then there’s no need to disclose the odds.  This has worked fairly well since Blizz pulled in $4 billion from all in-game transactions in 2017.

I’ve stated previously that I don’t think loot boxes fit our current definition of gambling.  Gambling today assumes that you get nothing, with a chance to get something.  Loot boxes always give you something, with a chance to get more things. Imagine if playing the lottery always had a payout, even 10c.  That would require a massive investment to distribute payouts to everyone… but software companies already have that link.  That’s not to say that the definition of gambling doesn’t need to change.  Plenty of other laws have changed.

Age restrictions – that one I can get behind.  There are no 16 year old whales.  A 16 year old with that much disposable income is much to smart to spend their money on virtual items.  Loot boxes are addictive, and they do a great job of nickel-and-diming you forward.  That’s their intended design.  21 is the same age as most other controlled substances in Hawaii, so the number makes sense to them, and easier to align with other legislation.

Displaying loot chances… does that discourage the people who are buying loot boxes?  Whales are keeping the games afloat, it certainly won’t impact their behavior.  Well, unless they are min-maxers finding the best route to an item.  It won’t impact addicts either.  Maybe it will impact the regular Joe, or stop someone from even starting down that path in the first place.  People knew for years that smoking killed, didn’t make a dent.  Change all the packaging to put cancer-ridden pictures (along with lots of restrictions on where to smoke, and services to assist in quitting) and the rate of smokers plummets.

Change for changes’ sake rarely works out.  Consumers are called “the money” for a reason.  Values and ethics have not caught up to the change in technology.  We can’t go 5 years without some sort of disruption.  It’s a heck of a time to be watching society playing catch-up.


2 thoughts on “What We’ve Wrought

  1. I am actually in favor of regulation because the antics companies will do to make money is often at odds with honesty.

    Some are simple – the % chance to get an item per box is very fair. It would influence me to know if I had a 1 in 100 chance or a 1 in 10. I would say it should go even further and have a “buyout” option for every item at 50% of the odds price – or some other calculation. I have used this example before but in Paladins I really wanted a Lex skin. The game knows this because I have a lot of time played with Lex – the most out of any item in the box for my characters that I have to buy to get the skin. There are 16 items in the box. I had to spend $10 and got the skin I wanted on the LAST box.

    Coincidence? The odds of that are not 1 in 16 because the odds of the skin (the most valuable thing available in that box) were not 1 in 16. The other skin came in on the 15th box (there were 2 available). So the company most likely had it a 50% chance to get the crappy items and a 1% chance for the good ones – ensuring that I spend the $10 to get the one item I have. So the math on that, would be 50% the max price to get what you want, which would have been $5 if I didn’t really care about any of the other items (I didn’t).

    Part of the reason why I quit the game, when I realized how dishonest it was.

    Transparency is fair and consumers should be protected – especially in games of chance. In my example, the 15 items I got before the one I wanted held ZERO value to me (and since they were digital items, also had a zero cost to them). Just filler to extract more money from me.

    It needs to stop, and I hope regulation gets more serious and in more states/provinces.


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