In the gaming space there has been a lot of talk in recent years around the widespread and mass introduction of loot boxes and other similar forms of microtransactions – some titles have been able to build an entire industry from these systems such as popular esports title Counter-Strike which developed a cosmetic trading platform built from the use of loot boxes which before changes occurred in 2016 had found a value of up to $7.4 billion. Whilst there had been hopeful changes made to these systems for a while, none have really appeared until recently.
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The most recent move came as the Netherlands court ruled that the loot box system in FIFA, more widely known for the game as packs, very much fell under the banner of gambling and that more regulation was needed placing a €500,000 fine per week until change was made. Despite the arguments from studio EA against this, it certainly looked to be enforced and followed through, and although a smaller portion of the games market, it certainly shows that a stance was being taken against the growing trend for these mechanics and the problems that come along with them.
Other countries have also been building a case to do the same, the UK had a system in which examples of these systems in a more gambling-esque way could be submitted as the UK look to build a case against this practice, and had also been one of the early vocal supporters of finding a way to restrict the way these mechanics could function or to ban them outright. The big concern is that they can certainly be seen as a form of gambling, particularly as the visual and audio match that feeling – whilst online slot machine offers found here have become extremely popular recently for mobile gamers and the like, these same systems and sounds are being replicated in these games aimed toward a younger audience and replicating a slot machine without the monetary pay out and is where much of the concern is coming from. It will take a while for the UK to build a case against it, but it seems as though if enough evidence has been gathered that the same will be true where fines are issues and a possible ban is on the way.
Any plan to change the approach to loot boxes will need to be quite robust however, attempts have been made before and each time the developers have been able to make slight tweaks and slight adjustments to fall outside of the remit and remain within the guidelines set out, often times without really needing to change much to be able to do so. A lot of eyes are on this space though, so once change does come it is expected the change will be big, and we may even see this and similar attempts to push cosmetics in game be banned completely with newer forms of microtransactions taking their place.