Usually, the war against the controversial loot boxes that are featured in a number of video and mobile games are waged against the developers of the games. In several places across the world including the United Kingdom, the debate on whether loot boxes are a form of gambling or not seem to be leaning towards the former. Game developers such as EA have been in the spotlight for this reason and now the fight seems to be shifting to other parties.
The latest company to be pulled into the debate is renowned technology company Apple. Recently, a $5 million class-action lawsuit has been filed against Apple for allegedly profiting from the distribution of games with loot boxes.
has been filed against Apple for allegedly profiting from the distribution of games with loot boxes.
For anyone who is not familiar with loot boxes, they are usually packaged as in-app purchases that will grant the players some extra rewards, boosts, and other special items. The contents of loot boxes are often totally randomized and this one of the key reasons why they are considered to be gambling in certain jurisdictions.
Billions in Revenue from Free Apps
According to California law, the inclusion of the in-app purchases is a violation. As it turns out, Apple is actually aware, albeit tacitly, of the randomized nature of the loot boxes that make them resemble gambling. As such, the company requires the game developers to state the chances of winning with the purchased loot boxes. However, the concerns stem from the loopholes that allow the games to continue operating.
“Dozens (if not hundreds) of App Store games rely on some form of Loot Box or similar gambling mechanism to generate billions of dollars, much of it from kids.”
Most of the games that are on the App Store actually free to download but the game developers and Apple themselves have been making a killing from the in-app purchases. The lawsuit explicitly states that other than the promise of potentially getting more money in the end, loot boxes feature all of the mechanics of gambling.
Is It Time for the Loot Box Discussion in the United States?
The lawsuit will certainly bring more attention to the world of video games and how they relate to online gambling. The protection of minors and other vulnerable parties from these products seem to be the main drivers of the debate against loot boxes. In fact, some studies have shown that the loot boxes can be just as addictive as good old gambling,
Loot boxes have been banned in some parts of the world and are being scrutinized in other parts. As more states in the US continue to advance and regulate the gambling industries, it should not be long before the debate on loot boxes and their relation to gambling are discussed broadly.