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The ESRB Defends Loot Boxes in Video Games

Dave Parrack 27-02-2018

After months of controversy surrounding loot boxes, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has finally broached the subject. However, the ESRB, which assigns age ratings to video games in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, is defending the use of loot boxes.


Loot boxes, AKA loot crates, have been a thing for a while now. They’re essentially sealed virtual boxes gamers can open to reveal the goodies inside. Sometimes loot boxes are awarded as prizes, but sometimes gamers have to purchase them. And that’s problematic.

The ESRB Weighs In

The ESRB has been silent on the issue since the release of Star Wars: Battlefront II brought the issue to a head. However, after some cajoling from Senator Maggie Hassan, the ESRB has finally addressed the issue, but probably not in the way gamers hoped.

The answer to the problem, according to the ESRB, is a new label for video games. So, from now on, all games that “offer the ability to purchase digital goods or premiums with real world currency” will come with an “In-Game Purchases” warning.

This will apply across the board, with loot boxes essentially branded the same as bonus levels, skins, music, virtual coins, subscriptions, season passes, and upgrades. Which means pretty much every new game will be stuck with the “In-Game Purchases” label.


The ESRB sees this as a parenting problem 4 Ways Parents Can Educate Themselves On Video Games The only way parents can guard against their offspring playing video games they don't agree with is by educating themselves about them. After all, it's impossible to police something without first understanding it. Thankfully there... Read More . So, it has also launched ParentalTools.org designed to help parents “manage the amount of time or money those crafty kids spend playing games”. Which is great and all, but doesn’t fix the problem of loot boxes.

A Blight on Gaming

DLC and in-game purchases DLC: The Story of Gaming's Three Most Expensive Letters Downloadable Content (DLC) is a core part of modern video games. But where did it come from, and how has it affected the video game industry? Let's find out. Read More are here to stay, and most of us are OK with that. However, loot boxes, which sees you buying something sight unseen, are a blight on gaming. Especially when they buy a competitive advantage, as is the case with Star Wars: Battlefront II.

Do you play any games filled with loot boxes? Have you ever purchased a loot box? If so, did you consider it a gamble? Or just a fun form of monetization? Should the ESRB be doing more to tackle the problem of loot boxes? Please let us know in the comments below!

Image Credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via Flickr

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  1. Ehelldane
    February 27, 2018 at 8:40 pm

    Two problems. "Loot-boxes" aren't all gambling, because any crate that has items, or an item, in it, qualifies as a loot-box.

    For example, buy a ship in STO, it comes in a box, and must be unpacked to use.

    This is important because boxes often stack in inventories but unpacked items may not.

    What is gambling, are loot-boxes that can be purchased, or must be opened with purchased keys, that provide a 'chance' at receiving some reward or benefit.

    The player is paying for that 'chance', just like somebody who buys a lotto ticket, or a scratch off ticket, or someone who drops a coin in a slot machine. It doesn't matter if they get something regardless of whether they win big, the obvious goal is to win big 99.9% of the time. Besides they always get something, even if it just a chance at some more. A chance is still more than nothing.

    Gambling can be addictive for some people, and when it's pay-to-play it's often regulated by specialized gov agencies. And for good reason.

    They really need to stop calling them by the more non-specific term though, and call them something else, chance-boxes perhaps.

    Or, we could just call it what it is. In game gambling; that's either free-to-play, and therefor doesn't need regulation, or pay-to-play which needs to be regulated.