In video games, a loot box is a consumable virtual item which can be redeemed to receive a randomized selection of further virtual items. These range from simple customization options for a player’s avatar or character to game-changing equipment such as weapons and armor. So how did it come to be? How did the history of lootboxes evolve?
Well, Lootboxes have been the subject of controversy for some time now. Over the course of the past couple of years, governments have reacted differently to them. So what exactly are lootboxes and how they came to be? Yup, that’s right; this is the history of lootboxes!
History of Lootboxes
It has been over 40 years since the first video games came into existence. Initially, it would be a one-time purchase allowing you to complete the game without making any further payments. But almost 2 decades ago, in the early 2000s, the primary existence of loot boxes was revealed to the gaming community. The first Loot-Box based system was in a Japanese MMORPG. It was named a ‘Gachapon Ticket’ which was made available for purchase for 100 Yen.
The ticket gave the Players a randomized item which could be useful in the game, hence the term ‘Virtual Item’. In Western regions (North America and Europe) around 2009, the video game industry saw the success of Zynga and other large publishers of social-network games that offered the games for free on sites like Facebook but included microtransactions to accelerate one’s progress in the game. This essentially allowed video game companies even more revenue; by virtue of purchases over time.
Since then, the concept of Loot-Boxes spread through the Publishers and the Gaming Community seemed to accept it. But this process at the beginning was subtle and plausible; however, recently the trend of Loot-Boxes has increased a lot, and many popular companies began to accept this as a Money-Making Strategy.
Games nowadays are being released as so-called free to play, but would require you purchasing their Loot-Boxes or other Virtual Items to undergo a full experience the game has to offer.
Popular Games that Use Lootboxes
1. EA (FIFA)
Since the launch of Ultimate Team in 2011, EA has been printing cash as many Gamers spend a thoughtless amount of money towards buying packs. These packs awarded users Football players to level up their team and potentially win them more games. The amount of money spent on loot boxes is just innumerate. FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) is potentially useless without purchasing packs.
This is a sign of concern as many children play this game and insist parents to spend money on the game. This eventually comes under the category of Gambling and can be dangerous.
You can preorder FIFA20 at Gamivo!
2. NBA 2K19
Being the 19th Game to a sequel, you have your hopes high, especially if its previous installment didn’t go well. You might think 2K would redeem themselves with this game, but no, you were wrong. The Developers have not gone overboard with designing this game with only a few changes and even more micro-transactions, begging players to buy jerseys, hairstyles and the smallest of design apparels.
It’s just that Game Companies don’t care about the user experience; they care about the cash. Cash flows its way into their accounts; this lasts as long as some gamers support a company no matter what (even if it means a large waste of money).
Oh, and if you thought NBA 2k20 is any different – think again.
The Government’s Response to Lootboxes
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) announced that it would add an “In-Game Purchases” label to alert purchasers of games that allow for these types of microtransactions. Several states – including Hawaii, Washington, California, and Minnesota – also introduced bills last year to regulate the use of loot boxes in games. However, all of them failed to pass. Then a new bill was proposed which stated: “The Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act,”. The bill would specifically seek to protect minors by focusing on games either targeted at or played by, consumers under the age of 18. For games that meet the bill’s criteria, the legislation would prohibit “several forms of manipulative design.”
In particular, the announcement identifies that the legislation would prohibit loot boxes, defined as “microtransactions offering randomized or partially randomized rewards to players.” Further, it would outlaw “pay-to-win” game designs, including both (1) attempting to induce players to spend money to quickly advance through game content that is otherwise available for no additional cost; and (2) manipulating the balance in competitive multiplayer games to give players who purchase additional microtransactions a competitive advantage over other players who do not pay the additional fees.
The recommendation comes as part of the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee’s report on immersive and addictive technologies, published on Thursday after months of parliamentary hearings with technology and gaming companies.
Loot boxes, in-game rewards that offer a randomized selection of items to players who buy or earn them, should not be regulated if they are exclusively earned for in-game success. But if they are purchased for real money, then, at the very least, the game should be marked as containing gambling and age-rated content accordingly. Also, the government should consider regulating the practice as a game of chance under the Gambling Act 2005.
In April 2018, shortly after the Netherlands’ decision on loot boxes, the Belgian Gaming Commission completed its study of loot-box systems in four games, FIFA 18, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Star Wars Battlefront II. They determined that the loot-box systems in FIFA 18, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive were considered games of chance and subject to Belgium’s gambling laws.
Companies like EA could now be subject to criminal law. Failure to comply may lead to a fine of €800,000 (£697,000) and up to five years in prison for the publishers. Belgium’s Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, was keen to focus on how children are confronted with loot boxes, calling the mix of gaming and gambling “dangerous for mental health”.
You might also like: Astonishing Cases Of Game Company Lawsuits
EA Responds to the Lootbox Controversy
EA’s VP of legal and government affairs refuses to use the term ‘loot boxes’ in favor of ‘surprise mechanics’, compares them to Kinder Eggs, says they are not gambling and ‘quite ethical. “We do think the way that we have implemented these kinds of mechanics – and FIFA, of course, is our big one. Our FIFA Ultimate Team and our packs – is quite ethical and quite fun, quite enjoyable to people,” Kerry said.
Our history of lootboxes article comes to an end. Do you think lootboxes should be outlawed? Let us know in the comments below!