Thursday October 12, 2017

ESRB: Loot Boxes Are Not Gambling

Randomness is an inherent aspect of any videogame loot box: maybe there's something good inside, or maybe you get stuck with something you've already got 16 copies of -- but you do get something. This is why the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which categorizes games released in North America from "Early Childhood" to "Adults Only," does not consider them to be a form of gambling.

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It's an important distinction, because as the ESRB ratings guide page explains, one of the criteria for the AO (Adults Only) rating is "gambling with real currency." Categorizing loot boxes as gambling would open up every game that offers them, including very mainstream stuff like Overwatch, Hearthstone, Destiny 2, and Assassin's Creed, to the dreaded 18-only AO sticker. That doesn't mean much in digital environments like Steam, where ESRB ratings are effectively irrelevant, but in the world of regular retail, it's the kiss of death.

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