The Dutch Gambling Authority has announced a hardline stance on lootboxes on games, one of the first official authorities to make such a move. The gaming authority researched ten popular games with lootboxes containing digital items. Of these 10 games, four had lootboxes that could both be purchased with real-world currency and their contents sold on digital marketplaces.
As a result of these items having a genuine value attached to them, and with players able to make money from the rarer items, under Dutch law, this classifies these lootboxes as gambling.
"They're designed to be gambling games and give the player the feeling that they almost won. There are all kinds of audio- and visual effects when you open a lootbox. This gives a player the urge to keep going,” said Marja Appelman, director of the gambling authority.
The remaining six games offered lootboxes with items that couldn’t be traded, and therefore do not break Holland’s gambling laws. The gambling authority, however, still thinks critically of these lootboxes, particularly in games marketed for all ages.
As a result of these findings, the Dutch gambling authority is giving publishers and developers eight weeks to alter their games. Failure to do so may result in a fine or the offending games being removed from sale in the Netherlands.
While lootboxes aren’t yet classed as gambling across the majority of the world, I do think publishers need to take a long hard look at themselves and think about what they’re doing. At the very least there are discussions to be had about whether they are classified as gambling, and that’s a very different beast to the entertainment gaming products these publishers all originally set out to make. If they'd had the decency to respect their audience and not solely attempt to extract every penny, this wouldn't have had to reach this legislative level, but a few choice offenders didn't know where to draw the line.
It’s predatory, it can be dangerous, and in some cases, it’s instilling the risk/reward feeling of genuine gambling, oftentimes in games that are marketed as child-friendly. Any other form of gambling is heavily regulated, and yet you’ve got games like Rocket League which are rated ‘E’ for Everyone, offering up crates, keys and randomised drops that can then be sold through marketplaces. "I call on all game companies not to make loot boxes accessible to children anymore and to remove addictive elements," said Appelman.
Can you see this move from the Dutch gaming authority becoming the starter of a wider worldwide trend? Should lootboxes be regulated as gambling? Let us know what you think of it all below!