LootBoxes under the Scope in Sweden
Finally, there’s movement in regards to loot boxes and the correlation between gambling and these reward-system-triggering features in online games aimed at underage users. Now the Swedish Government initiate an official investigation on the matter, to determine if a possible regulation of loot boxes should be implemented.
The Consumer protection authority will lead the investigation without the assistance from the swedish regulatory body “spelinspektionen". The consumer authority will however, reach out to both spelinspektionen, the national public health department and the Swedish Media Council for their comments on the matter.
This report is due October 1st, and will hopefully help Sweden’s lawmakers come to a conclusion on the matter.
So - What is a Lootbox?
A loot box initially started as a way to monetize on games that has already been published and sold. - The first ever “loot box” we saw was in the now old RPG game Skyrim from Bethesda. You were offered to purchase a piece of armour to your in-game horse, for a symbolic fee. - Little did Bethesta know what kind of snowball effect this created.
Shortly after, Valve, together with other big game developers introduced us to game like Team Fortress, where you could purchase different kinds of skins (graphics to your avatar or weapon in game) weapons, and even characters to expand your gaming experience after your initial purchase.
Two Types of Loot Boxes
The lootbox system can be put into two major groups. - The graphical addons to your avatar, and gameplay changing upgrades.
Graphical addons does not give you an edge in the game, and are purely visuals to better the gaming experience for the user, and to expand customization during avatar creation.
Now, the upgrades however, is where it gets tricky. Imagine you’ve purchased a multiplayer game, only to discover you have to pay even more to be on a par with the top tier players? The gaming community calls this a “Pay-to-win” setup, which has become less and less popular since the dawn of the loot box.
Reward-system-triggering Features Aimed At Underage Players.
The issue with these boxes are many, however one of the most sincere (in our opinion) is the obvious way the animations, graphics and setup of these boxes are designed very similarly to the “Big Win” animations you find in for example video slots.
It’s Not About Definitions, it’s About Social Responsibility.
The current local laws in sweden defines gambling as something down the line of: “If there is a prize, a stake and a game of chance it meets the requirements.” The discussion revolves around the fact that these loot boxes does not give cash prizes.
What should the stance be here? Are we supposed to allow free “winning games” aimed at kids, just because they receive a value which is not directly translated to cash?
Perhaps we should look into how children perceive value differently compared to adults? We buy a fancy car, cool clothes and jewelry to establish a social status.. - How is a cooler skin, fancier mount, and crazier weapons for your avatar in any way different? Slap a “Money raining” animation whenever you open a loot box, and you have the perfect environment to condition kids for gambling.