Germany Wants To Regulate Loot Boxes: Here’s What Might Happen Next

Posted: Feb 26 2018, 11:08pm CST | by , Updated: Feb 27 2018, 4:32am CST, in News | Gaming

 
Germany Wants to Regulate Loot Boxes: Here’s What Might Happen Next

If you’ve been plugged into news about the video game industry for the past few months, you’ve likely heard some controversy surrounding “loot boxes,” additional packages of randomly selected in-game items (like weapons, armor, or flair) that gamers can purchase for an additional fee. Now, the controversy has made it to an international political level, with countries like Germany moving to ban loot boxes entirely.

So how did loot boxes come to be so wildly controversial? And what could happen next for these in-game item boxes?

Why Loot Boxes Are Controversial

Loot boxes have been around for the better part of a decade, and are a common feature in mobile games, where microtransactions are prevalent. However, they’ve recently generated much broader and unfavorable attention with their inclusion in console games.

The most recent controversy stretches back to Shadow of War, which introduced purchasable loot boxes to a single-player game for the first time. Though the game was later cracked to allow users unlimited loot boxes, it left a sour taste in gamers’ mouths.

Things took a more dramatic turn when game publisher EA announced its plans to sell loot boxes in its then-upcoming title Star Wars: BattleFront II. The exact nature of the loot box system is complicated, but gamers figured out the gist of it quickly; there were many heroes, vehicles, weapons, and other commodities in-game that were virtually impossible to unlock without paying significant sums of real-world currency to buy more loot boxes. This was seen as disrespectful to the gaming community, since they’re already paying upwards of $60 for the original game, and gamers became concerned that the model would soon evolve to become even more exploitative.

The counterargument to this point, of course, is that companies are naturally incentivized to remain profitable—and maximize that profitability as much as possible to reward stakeholders. Companies want to maximize the productivity of their employees just as they want to maximize the revenue they earn for each of their games. If the game is too expensive, gamers don’t have to buy it—and realizing this, millions of gamers staged a boycott of EA’s title as a gesture of opposition. It worked—kind of.

German Regulations

There’s another side to the loot box controversy, however, and one that extends beyond agitated gamers into the political arena. After a study released by the University of Hamburg noting the increased prevalence of gambling-style mechanics in video games, Germany is considering restructuring regulations related to loot boxes and online advertising for games.

The idea is that paying money for unpredictable, random batches of items in a game is a form of gambling, which can lead to destructive financial habits, or even addiction. Considering the young age at which people begin playing video games, this has the potential to be even more destructive.

What Could Happen Next

There are many distinct possibilities that could unfold from here:

  • Regulations increase and spread. If Germany passes new regulations on loot boxes and online purchases, its ideological roots could spread. More countries could adopt stricter regulations, and game publishers would be forced to find a new way to squeeze money out of their games.
  • Regulation halts, but gamers step up efforts. If the regulations fail to catch on, but gamers are still collectively opposed to loot boxes, they could step up their efforts to vocally oppose them. Their efforts to boycott Battlefront II sent a loud, clear message to EA games, letting publishers know how serious they are and proving to gamers that their actions and voices matter. The next AAA game to attempt including loot boxes may face even fiercer opposition.
  • The status quo continues. Of course, if neither laws nor gamers increase the negative repercussions of including loot boxes in games, the status quo will likely continue, with loot box-like additions slowly becoming more common in big-name titles, until the increased additions are hardly noticeable.

No matter what happens, loot boxes will likely remain a polarizing element in games for the foreseeable future. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, this controversy has the power to change how video games and publishers work on a high level.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/68" rel="author">Larry Alton</a>
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

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