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Should Video Game “Loot Boxes” Be Illegal?

by Countable | 4.27.18

What’s the story?

  • The Belgium Gaming Commission has ruled that video game loot boxes are “in violation of gambling legislation.” And a bill introduced in Minnesota this past week would prohibit the sale of loot-box containing games to individuals younger than 18.


What are loot boxes?

  • Many video games allow players to spend actual currency to purchase virtual “loot boxes” that could contain valuable weapons, armor, or character outfits. Because the contents of the boxes are randomly generated, players could spend $1 and get an extra-useful item or spend $100 and get something barely useful at all.
  • Activision Blizzard – which publishes Candy Crush, Call of Duty, and Hearthstone – generated $4 billion in 2017 from these kinds of in-game transactions.


What’s the concern?

  • Paying money for some random prize, the New York Times writes, “has legislators in several states concerned that the boxes constitute concerned that the boxes constitute gambling and should be regulated like lottery tickets and slot machines.”
  • California, Hawaii, Indiana, Washington, and Minnesota have all targeted loot boxes.
  • State Rep. Chris Lee of Hawaii said the boxes “are specifically designed to exploit and manipulate the addictive nature of human psychology.”


What’s the Minnesota bill do?

  • Besides prohibiting the sale of loot boxes to players under the age of 18, the bill, introduced Monday, would require video games to post the warning:
 “This game contains a gambling-like mechanism that may promote the development of a gaming disorder that increases the risk of harmful mental or physical health effects, and may expose the user to significant financial risk.”


What’s the game industry say?

  • Dan Hewitt, vice president of media relations for the Entertainment Software Association, told the Times that loot boxes aren’t gambling because they always include something of use and players aren’t required to buy them.
“Our industry constantly tests new business models because those innovations can drive creativity and fan engagement,” Hewitt said.


What do you think?

Should other states join Minnesota, California, Hawaii, Indiana, and Washington in trying to regulate loot boxes? Or should there be a nation-wide ban like in Belgium? Hit Take Action and tell your reps, then share your thoughts below.


—Josh Herman


(Photo Credit: Belgium Gaming Commission)

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