Star Wars Battlefront II’s loot box controversy gathered mainstream attention around the world, and it looks like the situation isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Now, government officials from the United States, Australia, and Belgium have weighed in on what they think of loot boxes, and it isn’t good.
In Australia, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) revealed that loot boxes technically do constitute as gambling, but the jurisdiction surrounding their regulation is complex. One Reddit user contacted the commission regarding his concerns and its response can be read below (via PowerUp-gaming):
“Your research and suppositions on the matter are correct; what occurs with “loot boxes” does constitute gambling by the definition of the Victorian Legislation. Unfortunately where the complexity arises is in jurisdiction and our powers to investigate. Legislation has not moved as quick as the technology; at both State and Federal level we are not necessarily equipped to determine the legality of these practices in lieu of the fact the entities responsible are overseas.”
In the United States, Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii can be seen in the YouTube video below where he announces that steps are being taken to combat “predatory behavoir” from video game publishers, specifically calling out EA and Star Wars Battlefront II.
Rep. Lee went on to clarify his position on Reddit, stating (via Kotaku):
“People are more powerful than they think. While we are stepping up to act in Hawaii, we have also been in discussions with our counterparts in a number of other states who are also considering how to address this issue. Change is difficult at the federal level, but states can and are taking action.
Even so, elected officials can’t do it alone. They need your support and you can compel action wherever you live by calling and emailing your own state legislators and asking them to act. But don’t stop there. Call your allies. Call your pastors and teachers and community leaders. Ask them to call your state legislators as well. Their voices are politically powerful.
I believe this fight can be won because all the key bases of political support across the country are on the same side. The religious community, the medical community, the education community, consumer advocates, parents, even many business leaders and local chambers of commerce. This is a fight that unites everyone, even the most polarized conservatives and progressives. Doing something is a political win for Democrats and Republicans alike. And frankly, we don’t need to change the laws in every state – we just need to change a few and it will be enough to draw the line and compel change.
These kinds of lootboxes and microtransactions are explicitly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way casino games are so designed. This is especially true for young adults who child psychologists and other experts explain are particularly vulnerable. These exploitive mechanisms and the deceptive marketing promoting them have no place in games being marketed to minors, and perhaps no place in games at all.
Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one. You have the power to get involved and decide this and the choice is clear: stand up now, or let this be the new normal from this point forward.”
Lastly, Belgium’s Gaming Commission announced last week that it was launching an investigation as to whether loot boxes constituted as gambling, and according to VTM News, the answer is yes (via PC Gamer). Though the Google translation is a little rough, you can still understand the message they are trying to get across.
“The mixing of money and addiction is gambling. Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
According to the report, Belgium’s Minister of Justice Koen Geens wants to completely ban in-game purchases, but recognized the process could take quite some time as they will need to go to Europe to try and ban them.
A week ago, it would have been hard to imagine that Star Wars Battlefront II would cause such an uproar that lawmakers and government officials from around the world would speak out against anti-consumer practices. At the time the worst thing that appeared to happen was EA getting the most downvoted response in Reddit history. Whatever the fallout from this is, it’s certainly caused people to pay more attention to the video games industry at large.