Belgium says loot crates are gambling


#21

I’ve been thinking about this ever since this lootbox discussion started. If you look at Heartstone, which uses the digital version of boosterpacks, and note how the system those packs use is exactly the same as the lootboxes in Heroes of the Storm… how are they any different?

The answer of course is… they’re not. Yet that begs the question, if you are buying a MtG boosterpack, what exactly is it you are buying? Fifteen cards obviously, but beyond that? The only difference I can see between that and a Heartstone booster is that with MtG you are guaranteed a particular distribution of card rarity.

Is this gambling? I’m not so certain as most in this thread seem to be. If viewed as “putting down value to gain a random return” then it is gambling. But in the case of lootboxes the return is never zero, which is likely the point any defense is going to hinge on.

I’m conflicted on the matter.

Disclaimer: I don’t care if lootboxes were to go. I like them in HotS because they gave me access to skins I’d never buy given my ‘no spending on FTP games policy’, but overall? Meh.


#22

Disney is going to love it!

(sorry stusser, I replied to your post and then quoted Dan)


#23

This is good. The EU has in general strong consumer protection rules, and there’s a good chance this will move on from Belgium to the whole EU. If it includes age limitations and strict age controls, it will mean loot boxes will be out of most mainstream games. The EU has the market strength and history of fining multinationals that will make them not to take chances if this ever goes into EU law.

The industry has been taking advantage of a legal loophole for a long time, and the practices were predatory. Regulation here is a good thing imho.

As whether it is gambling: It depends on the definition of gambling, which is a legal term. It sure looks like a chance driven game in which you have to pay to get access to individual tries, and has a monetization strategy of getting clients hooked to the pay-reward loop.


#24

It’s a bit weird to me that all this seems to be coming from the ostensibly on the record reporting of one news source, VTM. There’s nothing about any of this on the website of the Gaming Commission, or the Ministry of Justice, or the minister’s own website, which suggests to me no formal finding has been made.


#25

China already regulates this kind of exploitation.


#26

IMO paying scientists to figure out how best to get consumers addicted to your product is a big “this is wrong” area for me and should be illegal. If you’re in some shape or form in the business of getting people addicted, I sure hope the government steps in…


#27

They are gambling in the sense slot machines are gambling. I think regulating it (clear display in the classification of the game, limited to only 18+) would be enough. The rest, how much they are used or are essential to a game, can be self-regulated by supply and demand.


#28

I agree, the problem is that such potential classification would be stronger than the industry standard self classification and would force stores to implement stricter age controls. Which means it would have a sales impact and probably drive developers away from anything that would trigger such classification.


#29

Interesting thought. You are right, unlike casino gambling your return is never zero. Or is it?

With the rarity dispersion used can it be argued that “junk loot/cards” are tantamount to getting zero? I’d say so, but I’m not sure society has a consensus on this yet.

I think if the rarity curve were flat I might buy the “ you always get something so this isn’t gambling” a bit more, but the system is set up the make you “chase” rarer and more desirable items.

That said, I do think we need parental controls on this stuff no matter what, Kids are just way too susceptible to these sorts of manipulations.


#30

OK, found a much more detailed article.


#31

Aloha!

EA (thankfully) screwed the pooch on this one, their greed will pave the way for this shit to to be regulated.


#32

Yeah, Bob Iger is probably tearing up the contracts as we speak.


#33

Being a cynic, I think this is not a step for increased public well being, it is simply the inroads to taxation. The government always wants their cut.


#34

IMO the inconsistent rarity output is a huge factor. (MtG no longer has consistent rarity distributions, either)

If you always get the same rarities and any cards in those rarities have equal distribution, you can reasonably claim that the company gave out the same value every time - aftermarket value is subjective, volatile and not in the company’s control. Therefore it’s not gambling. When that’s not the case, you’re getting an objectively different value from identical input with no control over that result - pretty much what gambling means, isn’t it? I’m somewhat surprised physical TCGs haven’t been targeted so loudly, since they don’t get to use the “it’s in the magical zero value world of the digital space” argument.


#35

It hasn’t? Well, they’re going to be next to paddle down shit creek then. In my mind the difference between physical cards and digital ones simply isn’t an issue anymore in this day and age. I mean bitcoin’s market cap sits at 136 billion dollar. That ship has sailed and sunk on the same reef that sank the gold standard.


#36

They’re not consistent with their boosters anymore? So you mean if I buy a pack I am not guaranteed a handful of commons, a few uncommons and one rare sort of thing?


#37

If you buy a Magic pack, you’re buying “eleven commons, three uncommons, and a rare or mythic rare, with a chance of getting a foil card at any rarity in place of a common, and (in some sets) a very small chance of getting a promo card in place of a common.” The guaranteed baseline hasn’t changed from “eleven commons, three uncommons, and a rare,” but you have a higher chance these days of getting something slightly above that baseline. It’s nothing like the random distribution of rarities seen in many digital CCGs.

As far as the “is this gambling?” thing, if you buy a Magic pack, you’re specifically paying for “fifteen Magic cards, with a predetermined baseline and distribution of card rarity, and a slight chance at something slightly above that baseline.” Any cash value attributed to individual cards comes from players and the secondary market, not from WotC saying “this card is worth $10, this other card is worth 50 cents.” Card rarities also have an actual gameplay reason to exist - Limited formats rely on some cards (which aren’t necessarily “money cards” at all) being printed at rare or mythic rare so that they don’t show up every time, for variety and often for power level reasons (many rares and mythic rares aren’t powerful enough for Constructed, but are devastating in a booster draft or sealed deck). Cards at common are also often valued by players because of the Pauper format, which only allows cards that were printed at common at some point in the game’s history. Then you have cubes (custom draft formats; a very popular variety to make is a “peasant cube,” with no cards above uncommon), Commander (where just about everything sees play), and a good number of other ways people find value for the “junk cards,” no dusting required.

Oh, and of course there’s the bit where physical card games don’t have a direct link to your bank account the way digital games do…


#38

This is not gambling then. I wouldn’t compare that to the digital stuff. They’ve been consistent for decades on their what you’re buying with some additions for foils and the like. You’re getting an x number of cards, every time and types of cards too. The digital front is a lot more wild west, and right now they can alter what you get even after you got it or make it completely useless. MtG if they change the rules or even ban the card it doesn’t just become worthless.

I am not opposed to all loot boxes nor are all loot boxes the same, but it’s become so wild west now and out of control in addition to sucking in children into pulling the handle one more time which we don’t allow outside the cards, tsum, LoL balls… basically a ton of physical things they always get something for.


#39

To me, gambling is pretty simply the ability to lay down an open-ended amount of money for a randomized return on that money. If one of the random possibilities is zero return that’s certainly more predatory and abusive, but guaranteeing that you get something doesn’t change that it’s gambling, IMO. It just means it’s a bit less shitty. I mean, actually, even the open-ended part isn’t necessary for it to be gambling. But if you cap the amount someone can spend on it that has much less possibility to fuck their shit up.


#40

They don’t control the secondary market. You’re buying 15 cards, as @WarpRattler said, and that’s it. It’s no different than buying 15 stickers, or 15 baseball cards, or 15 unmarked Tsum Tsum toys.