Are lootboxes gambling? Australian inquiry

That’s a very interesting observation, thanks for the insight

Also because it’s so easy to access… Just pick up your phone and play a game… Although betting is much the same I guess in that small respect

From before:

“…children shouldn’t be exposed to lootboxes…”

Absolutely. As a parent, the only way my child gets a lootbox contents is if I pay for it. If I don’t like a game’s “predatory nature”, I don’t let my kid play it.

Truthfully, that’s not what’s being discussed here, though. The Forum’s rant threads are all about SG’s unfairness toward adults. Of course we are all against lootboxes and children. But that’s not the point.

Ages ago, someone posted a thread about Gacha games, and that helped inform my understanding of loot boxes. Here it is again, for any who might be interested:

What exactly is a Gacha? (Read before posting things about "unfair pulls")

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Related to this, i want to talk about my daughter.
She has only 5 years old, and sometimes she see me playing E&P.

It happen once she saw me summon from the beta app. For those who don’t know it, beta testers are provided with some free gems to use it only in beta. No consequences in real game, win or lose.

So it pick her interest and ask me to do some. Ok, no problem, i thought.

Now everytime she see me playing she ask me if it is returned “the hole game” (that’s how she called it), and she is starting to be very persistent.

I have no doubts that it is my duty to keep her away from this kind of things, but the rapidity of how something so trivial influence children makes me worry.

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I have an addictive personality. In this regard, I have been lucky in some areas and unlucky in others. Lucky in that I inherited on my mothers side the high tolerance that comes with alcoholism, but not the addiction to it. While I served in the military this was handy, being able to drink anyone else under the table. I now have a bottle of Long Island that sits next to me for a very long time now, untouched.

However, when it comes to gambling addiction, I have been very unlucky. I am addicted to it. I am a respectable Texas Hold Em player and Black Jack player. I am fairly smart and can memorize odds and hands probabilities. I can count cards to middling degree. One(myself on reading this back) can hear me justifying myself being good at it, LOL.
I have had therapy, so some degree of psychological basis may find its way into this response on various topics.

I’ve given you some background on myself so that you can identify with me and understand my experience and point of view on these matters.

Controverisal Discussion Points:

  • Is Gacha (E&P) equivalent to loot boxes? Is this Gambling?

A. I want to say Yes. Unequivocally. My gut reaction is that it is. And I want it to be, but I’m trying to be objective. It may not be… (I’m going to hate myself for arguing this…)

I live in a highly religious state(Utah), where gambling is illegal. No lottery, no casino, and even personal card games are technically illegal, but not policed actively, unless someone is a sore loser and calls them in. This is healthy for me on a personal level, as I have to drive to another state to find a casino.

But what is NOT illegal are the Chuck E Cheese Pizza places and mini-theme parks, where you pay money for coins, go play the arcade games and Skeeball, etc., are rewarded with various amounts of tickets and then exchange these tickets for prizes. We pay real money for fake money(coins), use that for entertainment purposes(tickets), and rewarded with items of little value(prizes for tickets).
This comparison challenges my belief that Gacha is gambling. In E&P, we pay real money for fake money(gems), use that for entertainment purposes(summoning or shop items (WE refill)), and rewarded with items of little value(3* - see summoning odds).

Interim Conclusion: Simply based on the lawmakers in my state, and the above comparison, I must conclude that Gacha is not Gambling.

Counter-Argument: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/gambling

Gamble

verb (used without object), gam·bled, gam·bling.

  1. to play at any game of chance for money or other stakes.

  2. to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance:to gamble on a toss of the dice.

verb (used with object), gam·bled, gam·bling.

  1. to lose or squander by betting (usually followed by away):He gambled all his hard-earned money away in one night.

  2. to wager or risk (money or something else of value):to gamble one’s freedom.

We pay real money for a chance at something valuable. The desired outcome is a 5* hero. The risk is Enormous! 98.5% of losing vs 1.5% chance of winning(desired outcome)!!!
What sane person would do such a thing!!???

One with a gambling addiction. Therefore, based on the above dictionary definition and the evidence of gambling addicts’ response to E&P, It appears that Gacha is indeed gambling.

True Conclusion: …hrm… I’m undecided… guess that’s why it’s controversial…

This is a good segue into my next point.

  • Is marketing Gacha to adults and children morally wrong?

These theme parks and video games are designed and marketed to children. Let’s be honest. And adults. From here on, I will refrain from the children argument because what we’re really upset about is that we have such a small chance at getting what we want. So really this all about the summoning odds being so low. Marketing to our inner child is simply good business practice. We won’t be challenging the marketing tactics, themselves. But I WILL refer back to them(marketing to children, and adult’s inner child) in combination with a lack of warning signs for gambling. Besides the answer already exists. Children are not allowed into casinos. Therefore if we determine that Gacha = Gambling then the answer automatically becomes, Yes: Marketing gambling(gacha) to children is morally wrong.

Using the “think of the children argument”, opens Pandora’s Box to getting off topic with irrelevant responses, such as “you’re the parent” and “control and guide your children”. We won’t be going there.

In reality and most cases, if it’s wrong for children, it’s wrong for adults too.

Therefore, the new question becomes

  • Is marketing Gacha and lootboxes to adults morally wrong?

Again, we are left returning to the argument of Gacha=Gambling. Adults can gamble if it’s legal in your area. So no, it’s not morally wrong to market your game to adults, even if we determine that gacha = gambling.

  • a. Do game companies and casinos have an obligation to announce their odds of winning and give warning signs against gambling?
  • b. Does E&P do this satisfactorily?

A. Yes.
B. No. They do make the odds available, behind a little “i” in a circle that sits quietly in a corner of a very particular screen that is buried a couple layers deep. Stated plainly, they hide it the best they can, while still making the information available. They do not have any kinds of warnings that you are playing a Gacha game, that you will need to spend either alot of time or alot of money to advance to endgame. They DO capitalize on the new players extensively before said players can come to this realization.

This IS morally wrong.

Unless you visit the forum BEFORE playing the game, read all the hateful and angry responses about spending money and not getting anywhere, and then find the article on Gacha, you have no idea what you are signing up for. This is unlikely. Most active players don’t even know the forum exists. What exactly is a Gacha? (Read before posting things about "unfair pulls")

That title makes me angry. The title of that article says read before POSTING about unfair pulls… That title discourages posting about your feeling of being duped. It should instead say (You got screwed. You should have read this BEFORE PLAYING) Now all you can do is post about it!
Only after you get the sense that something is wrong do you come here to the forum and discover that you’ve been duped.

This should be required reading, BEFORE PLAYING!! This would appease my sense of E&P’s moral obligation to the player base. If they included a little box that had to be checked after reading but before playing, I would be appeased on this point. Most of us auto click these disclaimers anyway without reading, so it would not hurt E&P. Also, even if someone DOES read it, it most likely would not be UNDERSTOOD until sometime after being in the game anyway. So E&P would still hook their new fish.

In conclusion, I feel duped into playing this game. (Sunk Cost Fallacy Applies) I did not understand the Gacha system prior to playing. It is marketed to my specific weakness. I love character building and leveling. I love match 3 games. I think the battle system incorporating match 3 and troops is brilliant! I enjoy playing this game for it’s mechanics and design of game-play.

I DO believe that the odds of 5* are WAY too low. I feel that the Second layer of Gacha system of ascension materials on top of the 5* odds is extremely excessive. I feel this game is designed to squeeze the player base into paying more than they can afford, and that it takes WAAAYYY too long to achieve endgame status, even if you can resist the bling popups, and sales that are recurring and persistent, without giving up.

(TLDR)
My opinion in short : this game costs too much, takes too long, is evilly designed, and I will continue to play it, because it is marketed to my specific weakness.

I want to see a disclaimer on Gacha prior to playing.
I want to see better summoning odds especially on Event heroes and all 5* heroes across the board.
I want options to obtain what I need for ascension mats. The solution for this is already in the game:
I want to see an Alchemy Lab level where I CHOOSE the mat I NEED.

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Lootbox or bust?

The report discusses banning loot boxes.

But most agree that micro transactions are not going away.

Pokémon GO has found micro transactions ( IAP ) that increase interaction between friends, and the real world, while reducing grinding and limiting the impact of IAP on play.

Limiting supply IAP

Pokémon GO does not have lootboxes but is very successful.

IAP Lure modules increase the spawns ( think Atlantis Rising ) but if you activate the lure, every player in range gets the bonus.

This would be similar to an item that made a single stage ( 2.1-8, or 2.1-4, or 1.8-7, or 1.12-9 ) into Atlantis Rising for ALL players for 30 minutes.

This limits spending because only one person can use a lure per 30 minutes, but all players benefit.

Motion IAP

Pokémon GO also has incense which only effects your account.

IAP Incense increases the spawns ( think Atlantis Rising ) but becomes 5x more powerful if you jog or slowly ride a bike.

This would be similar to an item that made a single stage ( 2.1-8 ) into Atlantis Rising but increases loot by +750% as long as you jogged or slowly ride a bike.

Motion and friendship IAP

Pokémon GO also has gift eggs which can hatch into rare heroes from around the world.

You must make friends, trade gifts, walk 2k to 10k to hatch the egg, then trade the hatched 1* to 4* hero to get bonus 3* ascension items.

IAP can decrease the kilometers needed for this but you still need to interact with your friends AND walk.

Motion and ascension items

You can get specific 3* / 4* ascension items by walking a matching hero.

So walking Joon would give yellow 4* darts and Wu Kong would give yellow 3* orbs.

Motion

Pokémon GO uses your phone to track your distance even when not playing.

Encouraging you to interact in the real world with your game friends.

Friendship IAP

Pokémon GO also has legendary raids.

You can make friends, defeat 5* bosses together, capture the 5* boss, trade it with your friends to get bonus 4* ascension items.

IAP can increase how many 5* bosses you can fight per day but you still need to interact with your friends.

Leveling

Pokémon GO summons are randomly from X* 1.1 to X* 4.35.

Except for 5* heroes which are always summoned at 5* 3.01 ( private spawn ) or 5* 3.35 ( alliance spawn ).

Trade

Pokémon GO also has trade.

If I have extra Rigard, I can level Rigard to 4* 4.70 and trade to a teammate to help out.

1* to 4* heroes can only be traded once before becoming locked and non eligible for trade.

If I get a 5* 3.01 ( private spawn ) or 5* 3.35 ( alliance spawn ), I can trade it to a teammate.

5* heroes can only be traded once before becoming locked and non eligible for trade. Only a single 5* hero can be traded per day.

These limits on trade reduce the black market and the harm from players spending real money on the black market harming their real life.

F2P Grind

Not only do these mechanisms reduce the harm of IAP, but also reduce the grind for all players, S2P, F2P, C2P, VIP, P2P, Spender.

By reducing the grind, players do not spend too much time grinding, harming there real life.

By reducing the grind, players do not spend too much on IAP, harming there real life.

Monster puzzles

I would love to play a game with the best of Empires and Puzzles and the best of Pokémon GO.

Devs, go talk to Niantic.

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I wanted to weigh in on this @Gryphonknight.

I was a high level PoGo player from the day of release. I was a lvl 40, led our states Valor raid groups, and was generally one of the top players around. I really enjoyed the game, especially the “Go” aspect of it.

The problem is, in the summer of 2017 I lost the ability to walk. So Pokemon go was out the window. I saw just how inaccessible the game is for people of all walks of life, because it honestly alienates the disabled.

So as much as I like the structure of the way they do things, anything added to the game based on motion or pushing for people to have to “Go” somewhere to access portions will either alienate part of the player base or lead to cheating (spoofing).

So if they want to borrow everything but that, I’m good, but I’d really not like to lose a second game I love because of poorly thought out functionality for everyone.

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Still, it’s part of the whole discussion

If our parents in our society are addicted then there is no avoiding contaminating our children as @Elpis illustrated

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I read it all and found it brilliant, seriously.

But i want to make a small correction: the little “I” that open the odds window (as you correctly stated, quite hide in a corner) is something pretty recent.

For more then a year (i guess 18 months or so) we had absolutely anything showing us our odds.

I’m gonna never forget it, as i was in that first crew more then 2 years ago asking for that and never get any response back.

Only when other games started to publish their odds (like popular football games) Small Giant started to show them too. (And i still think they did that only to prevent someone force them to do so. Something about laws must be changed in that timeframe)

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I thought @Gryphonknight did a post on it if I’m not mistaken or was it @Duaneski… Pretty sure someone put a post around that time about changes in laws re disclosure of odds

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I’ve read the lastest posts above and there are a couple of points I would like to address here as this has become a bit about minors/children.
Just a small update on this matter and reminder and the reason I am posting thus is because like most online services that people register to, the Terms Of Service also known as the T&C which can be found here

Has this little section in it which states, and I quote

This means that if in you OWN local state, town or country you are considered to be a MINOR whether or not you are over 13 yrs old or not thus meaning if your state laws says that an under 18yr old is considered a minor by it’s own laws then you are NOT allowed to play this game to begin with.

The biggest mistake everyone makes when registering anywhere is NOT reading terms and conditions first and parents should be teaching their kids to do the same.

So techically (and i haven’t read every single games TOS to know but I probably wouldn’t be far from being correct in saying that this would be in many of them) even if lootboxes where deemed a form of gambling, it isn’t their fault if parents don’t watch or pay attention to what type of games their kids are playing as this particular game is clearly create as an ADULTS only game.

We are 2 of a kind there m8 , lol, of over 45yrs.

Nothing personal here but I was under the impression that advertising other games on here was prohibited, Now I know your not advertising them but honestly your only a direct link to their download page short of doing just that,lol

Basic reply to the original OP question is;

They are only illegal if they are illegal in Finland as the terms of service state that all it’s content is subject to Finland laws only and that user’s of it’s product from within those who’s countries, states etc prohibit these types of in-game features are in violation if playing this game to begin with.

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Actually for clarity’s sake the purpose of this thread is to discuss and view opinions on

a) whether lootboxes should be defined as a form of gambling

b) whether lootboxes should be made illegal

c) and all the incidentals of discussing those including the impact of gambling on society including consenting adults and underage children

(by reference to the Australian inquiry)

The terms of service of this forum and existing law on this topic are of course relevant too, but the question is much wider than that

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100% but it’s clearly expanded from that to many other areas involving/including kids thus why it should be noted that this game and probably many others like it shouldn’t even have kids/minors playing it to begin with.

As for lootboxes laws to change world wide, every country would have to on par and they are clearly not atm so for this topic to have any meaning towards SG doing something about it other than (politely seaking) us (myself included) the posters giving opinions, it would need to be taken to or linked to a gaming commission forum connected to every country in the world. Otherwise this topic only just becomes a never ending discussion on a never ending issue going nowhere.

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You are correct BUT (a huge but actually) the level of automated and manual checks that we run on accounts to ensure that minors and gambling addicted people have no access to our online products is insane. We are even far ahead than Land Based casinos in terms of security checks and we are members of a global database that keeps such targets away from any online gambling service out there.

For some territories violating such security measures can cost us the license to operate in territories such as UK, and they will fine you anywhere between 1 - 10 million dollars even for a minor infraction or even if they determine you don’t have all their required processes in place. Now that you brought this up I realize it is insane that loot-box based games are not held to the same standards. Note that, even though I’ve never spent money in a casino (for obvious reasons), the amount of money I’ve put on EP gives me chicken skin (lol) and I don’t consider myself vulnerable in any way shape or form.

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Wow. I wish we had those in place for lootboxes too

This whole move by developers to start publishing their odds was forced by Apple changing the terms of their app store with developers being told to publish their odds or face being booted. (Link to an article about it: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2017/12/21/16805674/apple-loot-box-app-store-games-odds-probability-disclosure)

It’s because of that I became more familiar with the situation in my country regarding loot boxes and gambling laws as when it happened I asked PoGo support when they planned to publish their egg hatch rates to which they responded they didn’t view eggs as a loot box. Not sure what Apple’s opinion would have been if challenged on it but my enthusiasm didn’t extend far enough to take it up with them.

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Sorry, but that is too easy. I would agree if these companies did not take real money, but if you have an addictive element added to loss of income there MUST be regulations. Casinos are held to that standard so I don’t see how loot boxes get a pass on this, you cannot simply say you don’t allow minors and have absolutely no way to enforce it nor be without monitoring of your compliance from a state office. If a bar sells alcohol to a minor it is the bar that will be in trouble, not the parents.

Earlier this year Ladbrokes Casino in UK got fined 5.9 million POUNDS (that’s 7.5 M USD) for “systematic failure in implementing the standard of social responsibility and anti-money laundering (AML) controls required of its licensing"… Meaning there was no victim complaining here, the UK was simply not happy with their processes to help protect vulnerable players. The mobile gaming community isn’t even being asked to enforce anything yet in most countries, but trust me, whether we want it or not, it’s coming.

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@Ozy1, if LB are deemed as gambling regulations will be put in place and there will be both a local enforcing state body and a global database of vulnerable players. That’s how it works with Casinos.

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I agree that loot boxes will be regulated in some form. I believe it’s coming too. Whether we want it or not. Alcohol is regulated, for safety standards. They tried to outlaw it for a time, and obviously that didn’t work very well. I think a moderate measure could be in place for loot boxes as well. I just don’t know what form that would take…

Let’s open the discussion up to what ways empire and puzzles would change, to incorporate this?

Do you think they would simply assign a dollar value to heroes and let you purchase them in the shop? Ascension materials purchasable?

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Me too mate, me too

Totally agree

The thing is, taking away lootboxes is taking away their lifeline or bloodstream.

I think if lootboxes were banned, or if certain dollar values were assigned to heroes, the logical commercial decision for them would be to scrap the game because it would be unprofitable

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