Loot boxes are one of the many in-game mechanics which have sparked a lively debate over the years. On the surface, they are simple enough, where players can spend X amount of money to buy an in-game item called a loot box, which contains various other in-game items. After opening it, the player can receive any item from the list, each with its chance of appearing. And while such a simple concept on paper can seem straightforward, the reality is a bit more complex and worth exploring.

1. Loot box mechanics

The most direct line and parallel to draw when explaining loot boxes is gambling, as some core principles apply in both cases. Because loot boxes contain a set amount of prizes that the player can receive with a single opening gesture, it is easy to see how they can be related to a deck of cards, slot machines, or a dice throw. The chance of winning can be explained with the RNG factor (random numbers generator), where a single draw can only produce one result, each stemming from the same pool.

Loot boxes have a set price for which the player can receive a prize of various values, thus encouraging players to use loot boxes until they receive their desired outcome. Likewise, the best casinos can offer bonuses and promotions for some games or during events, where players are rewarded with generous casino bonuses, up to thousands of dollars, Martin Booth says. The drive to receive the desired prize is present in both loot boxes and casinos, where players are gambling with the chance to win what they desire, leading to certain situations where loot boxes and gambling are equated.

2. Loot box guidelines

Now that we know how they work, the topic of the legality of loot boxes usually revolves around individual mechanics. For starters, a game can disclose the percentage (or likelihood) of an item dropped from a loot box. Let’s say a loot box contains ten in-game items, each with a varying chance of appearing. The game designers can allow the players to see the exact percentage or rate the chance of an item dropping from common to very rare.

By doing so, they can reveal what the player can win and inform them of their chances. Loot boxes can also allow players to set a maximum spending limit, capping the amount of boxes that can be opened per day. Many casinos not on Gamstop also allow similar features, and they are both intended for maximum customer satisfaction. As long as loot boxes aim at transparency and abide by local regulations, giving players options and information, they can be present in the games sold in said countries.

3. Legality of loot boxes

Brushing on the subject of loot box legality, it is worth mentioning that each country can have its own set of regulations regarding loot boxes. For example, even if developers do everything they can, from displaying the items inside a loot box, their percentages, and making all functions towards the player benefit, they will still be banned in the Netherlands and Belgium. On the other hand, China allows loot boxes, under the condition that chances are displayed, the daily limit exists, and a rising probability that guarantees that the player will eventually win with each purchase is implemented.

The players can always rest assured that if the loot box as a form of microtransaction is present in the game, it is allowed by local laws and regulations. Purchasing and using loot boxes in any game would not be possible otherwise, and it’s not the player’s fault if the option exists inside any game.

4. The value of loot boxes

The subject of loot box legality often stems from their inherent in-game price and the value of possible rewards. At its core, loot boxes provide a certain value to the player, but that value can sometimes be less than their price, which leads to the debate. The possibility of winning a precious, and rare skin from a loot box is possible, whereas in a game like Counter-Strike: Go, a player sold one weapon skin for $400,000, continuing the debate around loot boxes and their potential and place in video games. Whether the player eventually gets his money back is debatable, as the potential content of a loot box and the in-game economy are widely different from game to game. Taken in moderation, loot boxes provide ample fun and rewards for their price, as they can even be won for free in some games, where their mechanics allow for it.

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