As more and more interest grows in playing esports games, so does the concern over gambling. This revolves around the concept of ‘loot boxes.’ This refers to the ability to buy certain digital enhancements and other items with perceived value.
The net result has been a series of lawsuits against game makers such as EA and Epic. These lawsuits often involve gaming platforms such as Google and Apple. Loot boxes are often compared to Las Vegas-style slot machines. Many of the suits are tied to the existing gambling laws in specific states such as California.
How Are Loot Boxes Still Compared To Slot Machines
Described as digital grab bags, there is a direct cost associated with obtaining certain items. Battle oriented games offer loot boxes for additional weapons or avatars. These are part of marketing efforts aimed at player retention as well as new participants.
Many professionals believe that loot boxes encourage addictive behavior. This is the principle argument behind most legal action. Players have already acknowledged spending hundreds of dollars on these game components.
Parents have complained about the use of credit cards by minors to obtain the virtual loot.
Monthly consumer spending on video games is on the rise. Some of this has been attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. In March of 2019, the monthly spending level was $3.57 billion. That figure jumped to $4.81 billion in March of this year. There has been a substantial increase in each of the last five months through July.
Lawsuits claim that children and adolescents are especially susceptible to the concept of loot boxes. They lack the necessary control over impulse purchases and financial judgement.
Tim Blood is a lawyer with the Blood, Hurst & O’Reardon law firm in San Diego. His company has filed several lawsuits against gaming companies. These suits are on behalf of minors and adults. His comment was:
“It’s sort of a hidden world. People don’t talk about this stuff. But it’s a problem far more widespread than I would have expected.”
The Entertainment Software Association has been studying the matter. This organization represents the US video game industry. It has been estimated that more than 214 million Americans play video games for at least an hour a week. A recent report in July stated that at least one member of 75 percent of all households play video games.
These numbers do not take into consideration the recent uptick in playing time linked to COVID-19. From April to June, consumer spending on video gaming increased 23 percent. The actual figure was $11.6 billion. This was also a 6.3 percent increase over first quarter spending this year.
Top-rated games using the concept of loot boxes to boost revenue are:
- Brawl Stars
- Madden NFL
This has been described as “psychological manipulation that promotes gambling and other addictive behavior” in multiple lawsuits.
Blood’s law firm has filed class action suits against Supercell Oy in conjunction with the games Clash Royale and Brawl Stars. Other suits cover EA’s Madden NFL and FIFA soccer.
• Source: Loot Box Lawsuits Liken Transactions to Slot Machine Gambling From News.bloomberglaw.com On September 1, 2020.