Are lootboxes gambling? Australian inquiry

Thanks to both you and @FrenziedEye for the kind words. I’m based in the United Kingdom though I will say with every passing day here at the moment it feels like the “United” is becoming false advertising given the way we’re going but best not get into that right now.

If you’re looking into your country’s gambling laws I sincerely hope the website is better laid out that it is here, I was familiar on a good deal of these rules from awhile ago but going back to the website now it looks like its been changed to spread most of the information across a number of different PDFs on different pages that was a pain to find the exact names/classifications for certain things but anyway.

Charity raffle regulations, great games are addictive and informed consent

Having sat through and read all the rules and regulations of what a charity raffle can and can’t legally do it seems absurd to me that loot boxes have less regulations than a charity raffle! Indeed given the amount of laws and regulations the likes of drugs, casinos, alcohol and bars/pubs are each subjected to in most jurisdictions I find it equally bizarre that they’ve been brought up as counterpoints to whether loot boxes should face pretty much any regulation.

Psychological research has shown that great games are addictive and as such every games company wants to make great, addictive games. That in itself I don’t think is a problem, hell if I was a game developer, I would want to make games people enjoy playing. Now according to the Australian report some games are using algorithms and ratios perfected on EGMs (Electronic Gambling Machines) over decades for the optimal “smooth ride to extinction” which is gambling lingo for how to squeeze all the money out of a gambler as fast as possible. Now whilst the typical person entering a casino or bar knows what to expect going into those establishments and may act accordingly I would say that many phone users looking to play a mobile game are not expecting that they be subjected to such mechanisms perfected on gambling machines. I the user’s mind they’re simply just looking for a game to play and won’t have considered how much like gambling a particular game is (not all mobile games use gambling like mechanics and even those that do they extent varies) making them unsuspecting so that they’re more likely to fall into something they wouldn’t have done had the game been clearly marked as a form of gambling or if they were informed the game uses “smooth ride to extinction” mechanics. Indeed I would hope businesses recognising the symbiotic relationship between company and customers would recognise the importance of ensuring customers are fully aware of what they are getting into as mislead customers is the basis of fraud and the preserve of con-artists.

So yes if charitable raffles have the regulations that they do then I certainly do think the games that are deploying gambling style mechanics commercially should definitely face regulation too, especially to segregate them from those games not deploying such mechanics to make efforts to demarcate them so vulnerable user groups can choose to avoid them completely and potentially for age-restriction purposes as well as informing customers before playing what the nature of their gambling mechanics are and the nature of any gambling style monetisation maximising algorithms used so they can give informed consent.

Apple, Google, political progress and activism

If by the middle men you mean Apple and Google I’m not sure about that. Indeed I think that Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass have been in part inspired by the two companies reading the direction the regulatory winds were changing internationally and are looking to get ahead of it by getting platforms built up and established for the day that international regulation hits the revenue for micro-transaction heavy apps. If either company was that concerned about the ethics involved there was nothing stopping them putting in place their own rules on their app store, especially in Apple’s case who cannot be said to be shy to censor or prohibit some apps and content. As such I think political pressure is a catalyst at work here.

Whilst the rate of progress may be slow that is generally the case with most political progress, the exceptions being after significant tragedies and whilst some researchers have warned there may be tragic consequences to loot boxes (https://www.pcgamer.com/uk/loot-boxes-are-a-matter-of-life-or-death-for-problem-gamblers-says-researcher/) I hope that it won’t get to that point.

I suspect that where I am that regulation is going to be inevitable, there are a lot of MPs across the main parties in what is currently rare state of agreement on the issue and as time goes on the more parents who discover their kids have got hooked on a loot box based game that they wouldn’t have approved of had they known just adds more to the political pressure for at a minimum age-restriction. However if people really feel strongly about the issue and wish to pursue it then by all means take it up with your elected representatives and keep an eye out for these sorts of reviews in case they are asking for public submissions as your experiences helps to build pressure, you may even be able to bring up a perspective that may help strengthen a point that proves pivotal or lead to investigations into other aspects (for example whether some of the mechanics are deemed aggressive or unfair according to your country’s consumer protection laws) but at an absolute minimum I’d subscribe to ones of those services for games when they come out as money talks so if those subscription platforms become successful game companies will need to shift focus.

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So they are “prohibited, unless they are licensed…” Not banned in its entirety.

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It also opens a door for those that don’t like it.

If a game wants a steady flow of money from me as a player, I would like them to be open about it and make it a subscription fee, or purchasable cosmetics.

It’s different for E&P because it has been this way from the start. But definitely if we are playing a game that suddenly adapts a lootbox system it is perfectly valid to say “no thanks” and leave.

I used to play a F2P game that had cosmetics for direct purchase, I stopped playing when they stuffed everything in lootboxes.

A MOBA I played religiously a few years back had an ever-growing cash shop of characters and skins and voice packs (all of which were possible to unlock with in-game gold, by playing, the usual grind). The skins when unlocked had 3 different colour variations. I was a regular customer. I am a sucker for cosmetics. But only if I can buy the specific cosmetic that I want directly.

At some point the company decided to re-work the cash shop, so that other than a couple of heroes skins that were directly “on sale” per week, everything was stuffed lootboxes. The 3 skin variants were all now considered separate entities, and more colour variants of each were added. And the lootboxes were further diluted with avatars (okay) and ingame sprays (I never ever saw anyone actually use one) and voice-line emotes.

Was anyone really fooled by this exciting new loot system? I don’t know. I took on look at it, uninstalled it and never went back :slight_smile:

Maybe other people kept spending, or it enticed new spenders with “surprise and delight” but certainly they lost a few too. Sometimes I wonder if they ever improved the contents, but I have never cared to check.

I used to play a game that had an upfront fee, that introduced lootboxes...

Lootboxes were the main progression mechanic. For everything. A small trickle could be earned with a bit of grinding, but it was clearly intended to be a continual investment with constant rotation of seasonal/event boxes etc.
I uninstalled and applied for a refund of my original purchase (and got it).

In both cases, the key was that I used to play them. And the latter I missed for a while because I loved the gameplay otherwise. But the longing to play it wore off quite fast, to my surprise and delight :slight_smile:

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I can’t disagree with you in any substantive way but while we always get a hero, we do not have any inkling of the size and composition of the prize pool so we get the annoying continuous duplicates of Dawa, Karil, Hawkmoon and Nashgar. But as you say we should know that that will be the likely outcome after less than 20 pulls. I have to qualify that with TC20 has treated me kindly and i have a selection of brand new 5*'s; one is even a good one and some rare 4*s that had eluded me for ages.

After that I was delighted to see the quest pop up yesterday being the first time I had attempted to complete that quest that gave out much desired rare ascension mats for only the expenditure of world energy. So, clearly greed is not the only factor at play or it would not have been free. Lets face it, a business will generally only do the minimum to comply with what is lawful in any given jurisdiction to make a legal dollar/euro whatever and I don’t believe that SG are doing anything that others are not. At times they even appear to be generous with their goodwill.

If it were declared to be gambling in Australia, that would just entail SG registering E&P with the lotteries commission and declaring the prize pool plus the odds of a/any given outcome somewhere that can be found by the general public if hunted down. I sincerely doubt that anything material would change for more than 99.995% of players.

Someone posted just last week an excellent video that explained at some length why we have programmed random number generators as if things were truly random it wouldn’t be conducive to a happy consumer experience for just about all.

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My takes on some of the various things mentioned.

  1. Kinder Eggs. These have only been recently allowed into the US, due to regulations that have noting to do with gambling, if I understand correctly. In my opinion, they aren’t remotely close to gambling. They are as close to gambling as buying a children’s fast food meal with a toy, or a box of cereal with a random toy, or a box of Crackerjack.

  2. Sports trading cards are simply a collectible and the boom is over, and there’s not a whole lot of comparison here, as they are purely a open the pack and see what you get kind of joy. One can buy complete sets, but they special rare memorabilia cards and other crazy stuff aren’t in those. I used to buy them as a kid, but not since the hobby become mainstream and moneygrubbing, unless it’s a random sort of nostalgia purchase for a buck or so. I also liked the gum in the pack.

  3. Trading card games. I was playing Magic: the Gathering since it was released, essentially. There have been many, many other games that have come out, and many of them had rarities that indicated card strength - sometimes it was literally just a border color, or artwork. The key there is that you know you are getting a pack with a distribution of cards of known rarities, even if there may be extra cards that are totally randomly distributed with rarity.

When M:tG first came out, it had a problem with the packages, in that you could buy a box of cards, scan the packs without opening them to see what cards were in them, and then open only the good ones, reselling the rest. That was a problem that got solved, and it was not fair that unscrupulous dealers did that. Stores that would do that sometimes got found out.

I’m mostly out of the M:tG hobby, but I can say I turned a nice profit selling off most of my collection a couple years ago. I need to find the box that’s got the my old play deck, it’s lost in the move - it’s how I am buying my new car. That income comes from the robust secondary market. Most CCG’s never had much one, and/or don’t have one now.

I see multiple sides to the loot box discussion. If you buy loot boxes solely with in-game currency, there is no problem. Once you can directly use real-world currency, then things become an issue. What I find most amusing is that this is being dealt with from a perspective regarding Children. It should be discussed in a general sense, as most purchasers of these sorts of things aren’t children. They are people old enough to drink, vote, go to war, have kids, etc. Are there some games that cater to kids like this? Absolutely, and there needs to be discussion there, but it’d be best to just understand that you need to figure out how to handle them in general.

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Actually we do as all you need to do is count how many heroes are in that summons box. I’ve counted up to 60 in epic once and 70 in one of the event ones and about 15 or so in an Elemental summons.

We also know that each pull is indepentant from the other including when using 10 pulls.

Now every bodies story if different and there are tons of threads on both good and bad pulls but for myself, the first 6 months of playing I honestly had absolutely nothing, not even a 5* and then I started getting them almost every attempt on 1st and 2nd pulls. One time I got 2 duplicate 5* s plus a HOTM on my first 2 pulls.

Do I get annoyed when I pull 3 stars, Duplicates, Yes 100% I do, Do I get excited when I pull a 5* with or without a hotm, yes I do, it’s all part of the excitement of playing E&P and why we are here. I mean the reality of it is if you don’t like it leave but yet people would rather come on here and complain than leave. I think personally if I was SG from a business level point of view I would ecstatic that players choose to complain and keep playing instead of leaving, that alone says a lot for the game.

I have read tons of topics on other games in a heap of forums online and single game has the same issues, The losers all complain, the winners all brag, they all complain about spending money on virtual worthless products and how lucky or unlucky they got BUT yet they are all still there doing the exact same thing they complained about yesterday like they had no other choices in life.

I mean honestly the bottom line people are asking Authorities to control these these because the real underlying truth is they can’t control themselves so lets pass the buck on others and yet these SAME AUTHORITIES allow you and encourage you to GAMBLE on their own control Lotteries draws, and they advertise it as if it where the best think to purchase since the invention of clothes AND but I bet you every single weekly ticket purchaser will tell you they are NOT gamblers. Hmmm

Actually I think that was me,lol.
But it is an awrsome video which explains video game randomness well.

Lootboxes ain’t the real issue here, it’s how lootboxes are used that is the problem.

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This is true. I dont think we would deny that.

But you agree that children shouldn’t be exposed to lootboxes at the very least?

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@Oriontron it’s been pretty good here, we’re waiting for your comment :slight_smile:

@Rigs are you sure you don’t want to come out to play in the water, it’s pretty nice and cool here…:rofl:

Yikes.

Just yikes.

I can’t imagine subscription competing with loot boxes as far as maximized profits for game developers under really any circumstances… maybe provides a nice floor for developers, but it’s also something I don’t know if consumers really ‘need’. I think most people want one really good game to enjoy (at the very least that’s what they would believe). So I’m concerned if this is our white knight :stuck_out_tongue:

Some transparency: I have no idea what it means. I haven’t looked into the finer points of Belgium’s laws - only trumpeting that they’re outlawing loot boxes. I read that FIFA ‘gave up’ trying to circumvent the Belgium laws and will be removing loot boxes from FIFA in Belgium. (IIRC). I also think that that was going to start 1/1/2020 for FIFA so I think Belgium is giving developers some time to figure out how they’re going to work around their new law - which is smart.

I’ve spent > $100 on another mobile game HAPPILY. I would consider most of the money I’ve spent on E&P to be unhappy :p. (The other game doesn’t have loot boxes)

In 2019 that’s all that would happen. Part of what’s recommended by the commission is an investigation into whether or not those current set of prohibitions are enough. I think that was in the last paragraph or two that OP posted.

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100% and there is a way around that if they put their heads together and think about it.

Make the registration process more strict so that proof of age is mandatory and then HIDE lootboxes and special offers from minors. Minors would only be allowed to play for FREE until they are of age. As android also uses Google accounts for their payment system on video games, they should be made to do the same for registrations that have credit cards.

Where part of this problem lies is CC’s are to easily accepted without a proper real verification process. Fix that and kids using their parents CC’s won’t be such an issue.

I mean if they did that, the onus would be totally on the parents from there onwards without any doubts.

My boys play video games like any kid these days andthey get interged and carried away as well, but I have parent controls setup and if they want to purchase anything it tells them that it needs to be approved by me before they can continue. Now I have no fear of my kids cheating or opening another account etc as they know everything they do on their device in their accounts is tracked on my Desktop computer. Their friends, the sites they visit, chat logs, emails, everything.

Kids are kids and have no sense of worth or value when it comes to these things, it’s the parents job to teach them and make sure they stay out of trouble, not the government’s or other authorities.

But lets not push aside the fact that those here complaining about not getting decent returns from lootboxes after spending 100’s of dollars aren’t minors either. So where is the line drawn between an adult being resposible for their own actions and adults passing the buck expecting the law to be responsible for these adults actions. Gambling establishments have warning signs telling you gambling is bad for but what is honestly in place to actually stop them from playing if they can’t afford it, NOTHING as they still have free will and able to gamble.

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Lots of discussion here and I’m kinda trying to veer away from the serious discussions (for the moment anyway)… but I’ll throw in two cents.

Kids should not be buying loot boxes. Period. There should be some sort of system in place to prevent them from being able to do so.

There should be a warning screen that pops up before you buy a loot box, informing you of the odds and reminding you that you ain’t guaranteed to get jack ■■■■, so buyer beware.

Yeah and there should also be posted links for both gaming and gambling addiction helplines and such. Because some people probably need help resisting the urge to buy the crap anyway. That being said, you can’t really force an adult to seek help for their own problems. They have to recognize that they have a problem and be willing to try to address it.

One part in the very beginning of the first link kind of stood out to me. “loot boxes do not constitute gambling because players are always guaranteed to receive in-game content when they make a purchase”. By that rationale… my local casino gives all visitors free drinks (non-alcoholic only, my state doesn’t allow giving away free booze). And losing lottery tickets in my state can be redeemed for “points” to exchange for gift cards (once you lose $1000 or so, you get a $10 gift card to a restaurant, something like that, LOL). No matter what, you’re guaranteed to get something. So technically, it’s not gambling, right? :crazy_face:

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No sure about where you are but here it’s done by Clubs, be it RSL, League and others and it’s a marketing poly to achieve 2 goals,

  1. to make you spend more money within the clubs Restaurant
  2. encourage you to gamble more making you believe your getting something for nothing.

Giving you free beverage is also the same thing.

The bottom line is giving more options and reasons to spend more money.

Actually what they are doing is not considered gambling at all which is why they are allowed to do that.

But the underlying reasons for doing it is, but you can’t prove that, nor are you suppose to realise that it is to entice you to spend more money.

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Ohio here. And yeah it’s definitely meant to keep you gambling. Our local casino also has a membership program where you can get free gambling chips and such. Of course it’s a ploy.

I think loot boxes are a form of gambling, regardless of what they call it, and they’re using the same marketing ploys. I’m sure you’re familiar with “claw grab” machines. For whatever reason, they were never classified as “gambling” machines, in spite of the fact that they are (1) geared mostly towards children, (2) require a monetary investment without any guarantee of a return on your investment, and (3) ridiculously rigged.

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And all you have to do is go here and collect your free chip(s) every day?

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It’s not every day… the casino offers club membership, and there are different club “levels” depending on how much you gamble there. If you play a lot, you get “platinum” membership or something like that (I’m only “bronze” because I only go about once or twice a year). They send you pamphlets offering stuff like “$X free slot credits this Friday” (the level of your deals depend on how much you’ve gambled there, those who gamble a lot get free meals and all sorts of other “prizes”)… you have to go on that day and swipe your card and get the credits, but you can’t cash out the credits for money, you have to “play” them on the machines first. The assumption being that you will lose all of your “free” credits and put in even more money after the fact. And a whole bunch of suckers… I mean, gamblers… do exactly that.

You know gambling has existed since they the 1500’s and has always targeted and enticed kids in one form or another with the invention of those coin sliding machines that push money out and those claw machines as you say, in playgrounds throwing coins against a wall as kids, sporting cards and many other kids attractions all could be considered gambling in one form or another. So it’s taken them 500 years and the invention of the internet to realise kids are targeted at young ages, but not because it’s wrong is it now an issue, it’s because due to the internet it’s involving numbers in the millions world wide and thus people are using the internet to complain.

All our lives growing up in the real world we are subject to gambling habits thus why our minds are attracted to them so easily and without us noticing it before it’s too late.

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Oh I’m pretty sure gambling has existed for more than 500 years. I can imagine cave people thousands of years ago throwing rocks into a circle drawn in the dirt, and whoever’s rock gets closest to the center gets the best cut of meat from that day’s mammoth kill.

Not that I was there at the time. ahem

cough cough

That’s just how I imagine it probably went. If I was alive back then. Which I definitely wasn’t.

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I’ve worked in Land Based Casinos and transitioned to online gambling in 2001. Loot boxes are not gambling, they are worse than gambling IMO, based on 2 main reasons: 1) The odds (at least on EP) are FAR worse, if we are to equate getting something useful to real money, and 2) In casinos you mostly play and get the opportunity (if losses not recovered) to continue playing for free until you lose all or hit a good payout (e.g. chips from a lower roulette payout or coins to continue playing in slots).

With EP what you get is what you get, and money is gone. It is much harder to enjoy than playing in a Casino where you’re getting drinks and food for free or at least hit a slower payout or player bonus (online gambling). This is not a form of criticism since SG took the right step in publishing their odds and we are all supposed to be adults here. I am merely stating that gambling has been my industry forever and I can assure you the experience is way more rewarding in casinos and not comparable to the loot box experience.

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This

Click for oldest dice
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So if cassinos give you a piece of plastic as minimum reward IT’S NOT GAMBLING! :exploding_head: YEY! :exploding_head::exploding_head::exploding_head::dizzy_face::dizzy_face::dizzy_face:
They need to start doing that

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