When politics deals with computer and console games, the moaning is often great. Too often, half-truths and false assertions are thrown around. This time, however, the players are happy that politics are finally involved. They even provoked the interference.
But let's start from the beginning: The fact that free games are financed through purchases within the game is neither old hat nor a fuss. Despite the persistent free mentality, consumers understand and accept this business model. But companies crave more. That's why they like to come up with new sources of income.
When everyone has an internet connection, it's hard to generate sales growth. So net neutrality is thrown overboard and the toll for faster data transmission is introduced. The mobile phone providers invented the automatic data system in order to be able to top up the used data volume for a fee to customers in the disguise of the service.
Loot boxes in more and more games
The game manufacturers thought some time ago: What works with free games has to work even if customers have already spent 70 euros on the game itself. The whole thing works with loot boxes, which do not generally cost money. There is, for example, a loot box
- for solving tasks,
- the achievement of particular successes or
- perseverance, i.e. long games.
Loot boxes are based on the principle of chance. Nobody knows what's in the box. But it is always a reward. However, every player hopes for a particularly rare and thus valuable item with which he can gain advantages within the game. It is precisely with this wish that the manufacturers want to earn money and also offer loot boxes for sale.
Although these boxes are not absolutely necessary in order to be able to play the game, developers sometimes go so far that popular game characters can only be used after a great deal of effort or for money. So happened at Star Wars: Battlefront II, where Darth Vader was hidden in a loot box and could only be used after either playing for a long time or buying a loot box.
Consumers protest and get their way
After Reddit reported on it, the news spread like wildfire in gamer circles. They were so angry that they even called for a boycott and brought Electronic Arts to its knees. Probably under pressure from the licensor Disney, the manufacturer removed all in-game sales shortly before the start of sales and announced that it would reconsider the system of loot boxes.
Star Wars is just one example of many. The sports game UFC 3, also from Electronic Arts, relies even more heavily on this business model. Each ability of the fighter is acquired through loot boxes. UFC is not only making a leap forward on the PC and console market, martial arts are also moving more and more into the foreground with betting providers. And that also makes betting providers more attractive. On the one hand, they become frequent offered bonus services, but also through the inclusion of different (new) sports, such as UFC becoming increasingly interesting.
The protests of the players against the increasing microtransactions in games, the purchase of which has already cost a lot of money, are now calling politics on the scene. In Great Britain a petition with more than 10,000 signatures reached that the government now has to take care of the matter. In Belgium and the Netherlands, but also in Hawaii, politicians have already expressed their criticism. They care less about the money. You see loot boxes as Gambling and thus as a danger for children, adolescents and adults. After all, the loot box with surprise content doesn't always help you. Rather, they would be similar to the slots found in casinos.
Politicians call loot boxes a game of chance
Critics contradict that, after all, collecting Panini pictures is not a game of chance, even if you might buy a package with players you already own. And the surprise egg was banned in the US not because it can be addictive from a gambling point of view, but because it induces children to consume more sugar.
The German USK (Entertainment software self-control) examined the Lootbox phenomenon in 2017 and came to a very similar assessment. In their opinion, it is only a game of chance if the winnings can also be converted into money outside of the game and if it is not just a "low value item". But the loot boxes are about getting an item that makes you better in the game. For example a weapon or armor. You can't do anything with that outside of the specific game. That contradicts the classic money gain.
However, there are actually exchanges on the Internet that sell items from games. And not exactly cheap. For example, some Counterstrike weapons cost several hundred euros. So money can be made with the content of loot boxes.
How far politics will go remains to be seen. However, the gaming industry will not stand idly by. Some manufacturers already make half of their sales with purchases within a game. Some game fans spend several hundred euros in this way.