The ESRB Doesn't Consider Loot Boxes to be Gambling

The ESRB Doesn't Consider Loot Boxes to be Gambling

"We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games"

As the debate around loot box practices in video games continues, the Entertainment Software Rating Board - or ESRB - has weighed in on the matter by stating that the organization does not consider loot boxes to be gambling.

"While there's an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don't want)," said the group in a statement to Kotaku.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Loot Boxes

The ESRB actually likened loot boxes more to trading cards than gambling saying, "We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while. But other times you'll end up with a pack of cards you already heave."

The ESRB is the advisory board in charge of assigning ratings to video games. According to its own criteria, a game with real-money gambling will automatically receive an AO (Adults Only) rating which severely limits its marketing (stores like GameStop do not carry AO rated games). For its part, the ESRB considers loot boxes as covered by the "Digital Purchases" notification for customers, which presumably means the board doesn't see the need to add a special designation for games with loot boxes.

Loot boxes have become a hot button issue among gamers. While there was always grumbling when it came to DLC or cosmetic purchases, recent games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Star Wars Battlefront 2 have come under particular fire for charging customers for items that could potentially help players beat the game. The lack of control over how to purchase these upgrades have some critics calling the loot systems gambling.

As far as the ESRB is concerned however, it seems that the board feels no need to come out against loot boxes just yet, even as they become a more regular feature in full-priced video game releases.

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Matt Kim

News Editor

Matt Kim is a former freelance writer who's covered video games and digital media. He likes video games as spectacle and is easily distracted by bright lights or clever bits of dialogue. He also once wrote about personal finance, but that's neither here nor there.

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