Loot boxes aren’t gambling says ESRB

3 min read


This is the year of our loot box 2017. Just about every big game that’s come out this year has some form of loot box dishing out rewards for players, that’s reliant on randomness. Many feel that, because these can often be bought with real-world money (or by using in-game currency bought with real-world money), that they’re akin to gambling. Ideologically, they’re not far removed from slot machines – triggering the same sort of dopamine hit that gets people addicted to the flashing lights and potential winning allure of a one-armed bandit.

They’ve become a point of contention, especially since they’ve been included in fully paid-for retail games – where they’re often viewed as a “pay-to-win” mechanic. Games like Star Wars: Battlefront II, Destiny 2 and Forza 7 have the blight of loot boxes upon. Not even single player games are exempt, as the recently released Middle of Earth-Shadow of War is loaded with them. For the most part, they can be happily and easily ignored, but there’s a growing consensus that they should be regulated just like regular gambling. Only they’re not gambling, according to the ESRB. The company that handles the regulation and classification of content in the US (analogous to our own FPB, though possibly less overreaching) says that loot boxes aren’t gambling.

Read  EA says its Star Wars: Battlefront 2 lootboxes “are not gambling”

Per Kotaku:

“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” an ESRB spokesperson told Kotaku via email. “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”

While it may be semantics, the argument holds. Loot boxes are more like the lucky packets I spent all of my money on when I was a wee lad. You’re guaranteed to get something out of a Loot box, even if that something is sadness and wistful disappointment. I do, however, imagine that the FPB would believe differently, especially if they could find a way to profit from the sale of loot boxes.

Last Updated: October 12, 2017

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • So people pay real money into a “machine/program”, a line starts running with an arrow with multiple icons on it with flickering lights and sounds the whole time as it slowly comes to a stop… now where have I seen this before???

  • Original Heretic

    Appropriate header. Since every time I open a loot box I feel like Brad Pitt from Seven. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/92713605e23dcecaf986561dac9b843f1cacbad8fc34d7052dd7f8e05b31c7bd.jpg

  • Admiral Chief

    Blood Shards in Diablo 3 are also ‘gambling’ apparently

    • But you can’t “buy” blood shards…also Kadala sucks. She always screws me over xD

      • Admiral Chief

        I only recently started with adventure mode (CRUSADER FTW) and loving it

        • VampyreSquirrel

          Took you long enough

          • Admiral Chief

            Also was pleasantly surprised last night with one of those treasure goblins and the secret portal. ALL THAT LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT

          • Hammersteyn

            I almost lost my mind when I went in that portal, but then I just slaughter everything.

          • Admiral Chief

            DEATH TO ALL PONIES. I was so happy

          • Hammersteyn


          • 🙁

          • Admiral Chief

            I think I haven’t taken so many screenshots of eviscerated ponies ever

          • VampyreSquirrel

            Whimsydale (I’m guessing) is fun… and disturbing.

          • Admiral Chief

            Yes, you are correct. Whimsydale. I cannot wait for my next trip

          • VampyreSquirrel

            Wait until you hit Torment 10-13 and end up in there. the gold and loot is incredible.

    • Mark Treloar

      So are Steam sales.

      • Admiral Chief

        Or AAA releases xD

        • Yes, you never know if you will get a complete game or not. Big gamble 🙂

          • Admiral Chief


    • I think it can only be classified as gambling if real cash is involved somewhere

  • VampyreSquirrel

    I totally disagree with putting progression behind loot crates (making it pay to win) especially in a game you pay full price for. I really don’t care if there are cosmetics in the loot crates in games, because I won’t pay for them anyway.

    Edit: But yes to me it’s gambling. 😛

  • Hammersteyn

    Even if it’s not gambling, it still plays on a human’s addictive nature made all the more convenient by the fact that you don’t even need to lift your ass out of the chair to spend more money on a AAA game and the worst is, you don’t even know what you’re buying!

  • Remember when I said Micro-transactions from mobile gaming would become more evident in AAA gaming.

    Well here we go. Loot boxes were essentially always only mobile games. Now it’s come through in to the “blockbuster” gaming scene.

    Eventually all games will follow the mobile model. Mark my words. It’s happening.

  • Gr8_Balls_o_Fire
  • Deceased

    Rrrrriiight … and me putting 200 randzes into a machine – with the hopes of getting something that I want ( you know, like say 1000 randzes on top of my initial 200 randzes ) is also not gambling?

    The key here would be “game of chance” and lewtboxes are a mini-“game of chance” …

Check Also

Microtransaction-addicted teen asks EA, others to reconsider loot boxes

If you listen to game publishers, the microtransactions you’ll find in games aren’t anythi…