Video game players like to customize their gameplay to create an individualized experience. To meet that consumer need, our industry has pioneered ways to provide value to consumers through innovative monetization methods. Some games are sold, while others are free to play.
Recently, the use of “loot boxes” as a monetization method has been called into question by a small, but vocal, number of legislators. Put simply, loot boxes are optional features in video games that can be “opened” to receive a surprise selection of virtual items. These virtual items range from cosmetic items for a player’s character or avatar to items that enhance game play, such as weapons and armor. Concerned legislators have encouraged investigations into whether loot boxes constitute compulsive or gambling-like behavior, particularly among children. However, these concerns are unfounded.
“Loot boxes” are an optional in-game feature that enhance the player experience. Players always receive an item when opening a loot box. That item’s value is only within the video game; in other words, there is no real-world value for these items outside the game experience. For these reasons, loot boxes do not constitute “gambling” – and several countries have come to same conclusion.
Nonetheless, the video game industry ensures that consumers, and especially parents, are aware of the availability of in-game purchases and offers tools to limit or prevent monetary transactions. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which rates video games and provides information on in-game content, ensures that every video game with loot boxes is labeled appropriately. Video game consoles also provide parents with an opportunity to limit in-game spending. Through the use of these tools, the control and choice is always with parents and with players. To learn more about how to control optional in-game features, visit www.parentaltools.org.