It seems the dust surrounding loot boxes, which are found in numerous games provided by renowned game developers, hasn’t quite settled yet. While some people see them as a form of gambling, others say they are a conduit to an enhanced gaming experience.
Essentially, loot boxes are virtual prize bundles located in a box, and players have to use real currency to get hold of them. These virtual boxes contain in-game items that players can get either by accomplishing milestones in the actual games or by buying them directly.
Some players find these boxes problematic because they believe the most valuable items in the game are only available this way, and if they don’t spend real cash to get the prizes, they won’t be able to obtain them, since the difficulty of the missions is simply impossible to overcome.
Are Loot boxes like slots?
Yet, the developers claim this practice is just an encouragement for the players to buy loot boxes in order to get a unique playing experience. Still, there are no guarantees that they will contain top-quality in-game items, which is why some players may decide to buy more boxes to make sure they will get hold of at least some of the best items. This approach is precisely why loot boxes have been connected with slots or other gambling machines and why they’ve been marked as a form of gambling.
One of the first games to take the heat was FIFA Ultimate Team, which even resulted in several lawsuits against the company. Ever since loot boxes were used in FIFA Ultimate Team, many other games and companies have included them in their games as well.
In his interviews, Peter Moore, the former EA Sports president, has shed more light on the matter by comparing loot boxes to the act of collecting different things. For Mr. Moore, loot boxes can’t be considered a form of gambling because players get something from them every time they make a purchase, which is undeniably different from playing slots, where there are no guarantees of getting anything. There are no guarantees, true. However, a €1 casino deposit could turn you into a millionaire.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 is another example
Apart from FIFA, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is another example of a game with many in-game items tucked away in loot boxes or only available after long hours of gameplay. Unfortunately, the game did not fare well with the audience, which has prompted EA to rethink the whole loot box idea.
You can also compare loot boxes with booster packs we see in games such as Yu-Gi-Oh. In essence, they are the same — the players don’t know what they are going to get, but they are bound to get something, and the value and usefulness of the items come down to luck. Therefore, it’s probably much more logical to draw parallels between the fortune in card games and loot boxes.
After all, slot players are often left empty-handed. Furthermore, the amount of control the manufactures of virtual machines and Electronic Arts have on the outcomes is not the same either, which is another reason why slots and loot boxes differ. Namely, it can be argued that the random nature of loot boxes is not actually so random, as the EA can still decide what is found in those boxes thanks to all the programming underneath the surface.
Nevertheless, even though slot developers use RNGs to ensure random outcomes, slot makers and casinos can still decide the frequency of the big hits (or any winnings, for that matter), the RTP percentages, and other essential characteristics that determine what the players can win and how often.