Are Loot Boxes Considered to be Gambling?

Throughout 2020 and 2021 there had been a lot of news emerging around the growing prominence of loot boxes within online gaming – the microtransactions had been used as a way to provide players with unique in-game items, and for the years prior had been something largely ignored. Problems started to emerge as certain games developed online marketplaces which would turn this unique in-game items into a virtual currency with a certain value assigned, with some games even having items sell for tens of thousands of dollars and raising concerns that something that was previously considered to be quite harmless was instead a developing form of gambling emerging in many modern online games.

It’s important to note that loot boxes in games aren’t a very recent addition – they had existed in games emerging from Asia as early as the 2000’s in what is known as gacha games, a form of prize winning common in the likes of Japan, but had only emerged in the more recent variety after 2014 with values being assigned to products that could be put on a marketplace – so whilst not inherently dangerous as a form of gambling alone, it was the addition of the marketplace function that led to growing concern.

Legislation is continuing to change around this space and Europe in particular is the first to look at making change, the first bans came to Belgium back in 2018 but countries like Germany and the Netherlands have been the most recent to implement change with the UK looking hot on the heels for wanting to make changes too – but it may be important for clarification to be made when deciding whether or not loot boxes and crates can be considered gambling.

 The argument against is that items earned that may not be traded or distributed amongst other players hold no value, if they’re exclusively earned for one player and only provide a visual change then there isn’t anything to be won in the traditional sense and is a stance that some games have taken, because of this reason alone it’s unlikely that there will be longer term restrictions on loot crates despite changing regulations so long as the implementation from the developers remains in such a way that it conforms to these required adjustments. 2022 may see further discussions following the implementation and uses for these options, but at least for the time being it seems that there will little to no change for the time being whilst attention is moving away from loot boxes and more for legislation in changing gambling services as a whole.