Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

GEC: Discuss gaming, computers and electronics and venture into the bizarre world of STGODs.

Moderator: Thanas

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-22 12:48pm

This is getting ridiculous. So ridiculous I'm not even opposed to legislative action. You don't even waste money to buy little bits of code anymore. You pay money to gamble that you MIGHT get little bits of code. Give games with paid gambling an AO rating and watch them cry.

I laughed so hard when BF2 came out and I was accused of a slippery slope when I said the unlocks are going to get worse and more anti-consumer as things went along. I can't even believe it took this long. You can spend thousands of dollars today unlocking bits of data already on the disk (well, after the 30GB release day patch). It's not even DLC or expansion packs.

This is... well, at least when my kid is old enough, I know I'll be buying him whatever Nintendo console is out at the time. Sony and Microsoft can eat me for embracing this bullshit as much as they have.

"But FeniX! Disney giving EA the rights to Star Wars video games won't be that bad!" God damn I wish people would just get tired of video games already and go back to whatever bullshit they were ruining before the Xbox (and later, the iPad) was released.

Link here
The loot crate controversy has kicked up another gear, with both the Belgium Gaming Commission launching an investigation into whether loot boxes constitute gambling, and US legislator from Hawaii calling out the “predatory practices” of loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and other online games.

We’ll start with Belgium, where the Gaming Commission has classified loot boxes as gambling and called for them to banned through Europe. "The mixing of money and addiction is gambling," said the Gaming Commission. "It will require time because we need to go to Europe with this. We will absolutely try to forbid it."

The Minister for Justice, Koen Geens, also said "Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child." The Gaming Commission’s opposition is specifically targeted towards blind boxes rather than in-game purchases in general, although it’s unclear whether they’re also concerned about games that specifically target adults also.

Independently of this, Democrat politician Chris Lee, Hawaii State Representative and Chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee has called Star Wars Battlefront 2 a “Star Wars-theme online casino designed to lure kids” with “predatory practices”.

"We're here today to ensure future protections for kids, youth and everyone when it comes to the spread of predatory practices in online gaming, and the significant financial consequences it can have - and has been having - on families around this nation," said Lee.

"This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spreading money; it's a trap. This is something we need to address to ensure that particularly kids who are underage, who are not psychologically and emotionally mature enough to be able to gamble - which is why gambling is prohibited under 21 - are protected from being trapped into these cycles which have compelled many folks to spend thousands of dollars in gaming fees online.”

It’s not a good look for Disney in particular, a company which prides itself on catering to children. Lee is looking to take legal action and potential call for a ban of loot crates. "We're looking at legislation this coming year which could prohibit the sale of these games to folks who are underage in order to protect families, as well as prohibiting different kinds of mechanisms in those games. We've been talking with several other states as well - legislators there who are looking at the same thing. This is the appropriate time to make sure these issues are addressed before this becomes the new norm for every game."

Fellow Democrat Sean Quinlan also stepped up to the plate, likening the Battlefront loot boxes to old advertising that used to encourage kids to smoke.

"One of the things that's really disturbing about this, to me, is this was previously a business practice that was mostly seen in the mobile gaming market and now it's moved into the main event," said Quinlan

"This is a triple-A title that's been released by the world's largest gaming studio, and it has the most popular intellectual property in the world attached to it, and it's marketed squarely at children.

"Some of you folks who are older may remember a character called Joe Camel. He's not around anymore. We didn't allow Joe Camel to encourage your kids to smoke cigarettes and we shouldn't allow Star Wars to encourage your kids to gamble."

While Star Wars Battlefront 2 is the main target, it’s certainly not alone in its practices. Frustration just so happened to boil over for this particular game, but the likes of Valve actively have means to profit and loss from its CSGO, Team Fortress 2 and DOTA 2 microtransactions. Right now Disney is probably fuming though, particularly when one of its licenses is described as a casino for kids. It's going to be intriguing to see how this controversy rumbles on and what actual changes ccome about because of it.

User avatar
Formless
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2008-11-10 08:59pm
Location: the beginning and end of the Present

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Formless » 2017-11-22 01:35pm

I'm wondering how this might effect games like Hearthstone and its cardboard predecessors like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. Booster packs have been a part of that genre since forever, and while a booster pack is more or less guaranteed to have the same distribution of rare and common cards (except for the rare slot potentially having a mythic/secret rare in it, depending on the specific game), not all cards have the same monetary value on the secondary market. Randomness is an intrinsic part of the TCG genre, and there is no denying that Poke'mon for instance is aimed at kids. :?
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"
The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-22 02:22pm

I have thought about that, but let my impotent nerd rage get the best of me and focused on that. While the value fluctuates wildly, as you said: you WILL get a guaranteed payout (it's still technically gambling) with cardboard because those cards give X rares. Though it has gone a bit crazy and I haven't really kept up with the foils and all that. But the third-party value of rares is based on usefulness, they are still rares.

I think that's how they've always skirted the gambling line: there's a guaranteed payout unlike with "real" gambling.

But imagine you could open 10 packs of cards and get nothing but lands or generic commons. That's what the loot box system is. Worse than that, you aren't even getting a physical reward. If and when X pulls the server, all of your investment is gone. You are left with only the experience. Sure, my MTG and Star Wars cards are collecting dust, but that's because I choose to let them. So, there's not even a payout. And what was rare one weak can become common with a small change in code.

Parents and children go in knowing exactly what they are getting into with the collectible X genre. And I don't even like the idea of paying cash money for unlocks. But that's a fair bit better than paying money for the RNG roll that might payout nothing.... even more nothing than the other nothing.

User avatar
Formless
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2008-11-10 08:59pm
Location: the beginning and end of the Present

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Formless » 2017-11-22 02:30pm

A Belgian ommentor on Rock Paper Shotgun is saying that this is actually a mistranslation, and that the gaming press is jumping the gun. Belgium hasn't actually finished their investigation yet:
Swyyw wrote:Fake news :p

From the Belgian state media this morning : link to rtbf.be

Edit with a quick TLDR translation:
– the gambling commision has not concluded its inquiry yet, the president of the commission told the RTBF this morning
– “the mixing of money and addiction is gambling” was a statement made at the beginning of the inquiry, not its conclusion

Therefore don’t expect to find too much information on the details of the commission’s report (as it’s not released yet).
Of course, he wasn't expecting people to react so strongly to the phrase "fake news", so he added:
It looks like my reply is attracting snarky comments, it seems I’ve not made my point clearly, and somewhat ironically, hitting a language barrier.

It’s not my intent to undermine this story, the statement of our Justice Minister on his intent to legislate on this matter is quite a strong signal, and that alone is newsworthy.

However today a large number of gaming websites have reported on this Belgian ruling that did not in fact happen. As the article from the Belgian public media I’ve linked to explains (I invite you to read it using Google Translate, the translation is actually quite good for this article) (it’s the Belgian equivalent of the BBC if you wish), this false news item probably stems from a translation mistake in the interview with Justice Minister Koen Geens and is being reported erroneously all over gaming news.

The title of this RPS article ‘Belgium commission declares loot boxes are gambling’, as well as the first and third paragraph are simply factually wrong and premature.
Still, there is news here regarding the US legislators and the implication that the Belgians aren't going to just give up the investigation because EA delayed turning on transactions until the heat goes down. Oh, and also, the authorities of Victoria, Australia say its definitely gambling under their laws, but they lack jurisdiction.
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"
The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

User avatar
Formless
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2008-11-10 08:59pm
Location: the beginning and end of the Present

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Formless » 2017-11-22 02:44pm

TheFeniX wrote:
2017-11-22 02:22pm
I have thought about that, but let my impotent nerd rage get the best of me and focused on that. While the value fluctuates wildly, as you said: you WILL get a guaranteed payout (it's still technically gambling) with cardboard because those cards give X rares. Though it has gone a bit crazy and I haven't really kept up with the foils and all that. But the third-party value of rares is based on usefulness, they are still rares.

I think that's how they've always skirted the gambling line: there's a guaranteed payout unlike with "real" gambling.

But imagine you could open 10 packs of cards and get nothing but lands or generic commons. That's what the loot box system is. Worse than that, you aren't even getting a physical reward. If and when X pulls the server, all of your investment is gone. You are left with only the experience. Sure, my MTG and Star Wars cards are collecting dust, but that's because I choose to let them. So, there's not even a payout. And what was rare one weak can become common with a small change in code.

Parents and children go in knowing exactly what they are getting into with the collectible X genre. And I don't even like the idea of paying cash money for unlocks. But that's a fair bit better than paying money for the RNG roll that might payout nothing.... even more nothing than the other nothing.
What do you think of the Booster Box Game? In the many years Tolarian Community College has played it, he's managed to get anything from no extra boxes beyond the first, to seven at his most successful (Modern Masters 2017). As The Professor always says, booster boxes (and by extension, booster packs) are for draft, and if you want the cards you need to make the deck you want in constructed formats you really need to buy them individually on the secondary market. Its clear from this exercise that you absolutely gamble on monetary value with packs. But they never tell you this, and Wizards simply doesn't sell singles. The closest they come to doing so are the From the Vault series, where you get multiple guaranteed rare cards from past sets.
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"
The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

User avatar
Zaune
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 6007
Joined: 2010-06-21 11:05am
Location: In Transit
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Zaune » 2017-11-24 08:17am

Formless wrote:
2017-11-22 01:35pm
I'm wondering how this might effect games like Hearthstone and its cardboard predecessors like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. Booster packs have been a part of that genre since forever, and while a booster pack is more or less guaranteed to have the same distribution of rare and common cards (except for the rare slot potentially having a mythic/secret rare in it, depending on the specific game), not all cards have the same monetary value on the secondary market. Randomness is an intrinsic part of the TCG genre, and there is no denying that Poke'mon for instance is aimed at kids. :?
The difference with a game like Pokemon or MtG, though, is that you can exchange cards with your fellow players at no additional cost. So far as I know, lootbox items in Battlefront 4 are non-transferrable, which means if you get items you don't want or can't use then you're SOL.
There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


Like my writing? Tip me on Patreon

I Have A Blog

bilateralrope
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2005-06-25 06:50pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2017-11-24 10:39pm

Formless wrote:
2017-11-22 01:35pm
I'm wondering how this might effect games like Hearthstone and its cardboard predecessors like Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh. Booster packs have been a part of that genre since forever, and while a booster pack is more or less guaranteed to have the same distribution of rare and common cards (except for the rare slot potentially having a mythic/secret rare in it, depending on the specific game), not all cards have the same monetary value on the secondary market. Randomness is an intrinsic part of the TCG genre, and there is no denying that Poke'mon for instance is aimed at kids. :?
I've heard that physical card games are moving away from booster packs. Leaving only the old trading card games. Still, booster packs are gambling* and some of those games are aimed at children.

*Because you can't guarantee that the money you spent will give you the specific contents that you want.

As for Hearthstone, China made a law where any lootbox games had to declare the drop rate of lootbox contents. Blizzard found a loophole to avoid complying.

In a more general sense, I see no reason why gambling with lootboxes should be allowed just because a game is F2P or because that's the traditional business model for that kind of game. It's still gambling. It should still be regulated as gambling.

User avatar
Formless
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2008-11-10 08:59pm
Location: the beginning and end of the Present

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Formless » 2017-11-25 01:10am

bilateralrope wrote:
2017-11-24 10:39pm
I've heard that physical card games are moving away from booster packs. Leaving only the old trading card games.
If you are thinking of single deck games like Fluxx and Bang! then those have existed since forever. The only way they've gotten more like a TCG is that expansions became a thing at some point, but there is still a very distinctive play difference. Last I checked, every successful TCG still sells packs as one of their main products, though never the only way to obtain cards. Most games also sell pre-constructed decks, Magic and Poke'mon included. They just don't sell decks that can compete in tournaments. I know of only one company that experimented with a so-called "constructable card game" format for, iirc, a Call of Cthulu themed card game that was like a TCG in that each player has their own deck, but the distribution model was based off of Warhammer and other miniatures games (hence the term "constructable"). But I think it fizzled, as have a lot of attempted TCGs. Hearthstone is one of the most successful new TCGs in a long time, because it was the first game to be designed from the ground up as a digital card game rather than converting a cardboard game into a digital play experience like the others had done. And there are things you can't do in cardboard

(eg, the game designers for Magic once thought up a mechanic where you could take cards from your opponent's deck and shuffle them into your own, but the rules department flatly told them it was NEVER going to be a legal move in the game. Too many issues like use of distinct card sleeves among veteran players, potential for real life theft both intentional and otherwise, and every other issue you can think of when two people handle eachother's property in a competitive environment. But you could totally implement such a mechanic in Hearthstone with no issue because the cards are entirely digital)

Also, it should be noted that at least within Magic, boosters do serve at least one relatively legitimate purpose in that they enable a format called "draft." Instead of bringing a deck you made ahead of time, known as a "constructed" style format, everyone participating buys a bunch of booster packs and some land, and then you have to make a deck out of the resulting pool of random cards. Its not the cheapest format, in my estimation (by design, that would be either Pauper or Budget), but it has the advantage that no one can gain an edge by blowing money on singles to make the perfect deck-- which often is designed for you by some random person online. Its actually closer to how Richard Garfield intended the game to be played than the way it ended up being.

Edit: also, I should note that blind boxes selling random collectable items are totally a thing in real life and not just in video games and TCGs. Loot Crate and its ilk, anyone?
"Still, I would love to see human beings, and their constituent organ systems, trivialized and commercialized to the same extent as damn iPods and other crappy consumer products. It would be absolutely horrific, yet so wonderful." — Shroom Man 777
"To Err is Human; to Arrr is Pirate." — Skallagrim
“I would suggest "Schmuckulating", which is what Futurists do and, by extension, what they are." — Commenter "Rayneau"
The Magic Eight Ball Conspiracy.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-25 02:11am

Formless wrote:
2017-11-22 02:44pm
What do you think of the Booster Box Game? In the many years Tolarian Community College has played it, he's managed to get anything from no extra boxes beyond the first, to seven at his most successful (Modern Masters 2017). As The Professor always says, booster boxes (and by extension, booster packs) are for draft, and if you want the cards you need to make the deck you want in constructed formats you really need to buy them individually on the secondary market. Its clear from this exercise that you absolutely gamble on monetary value with packs. But they never tell you this, and Wizards simply doesn't sell singles. The closest they come to doing so are the From the Vault series, where you get multiple guaranteed rare cards from past sets.
Not much of an opinion. You're talking about gambling for the sake of gambling really. It is related, but adults doing this isn't a huge deal. Now, if this was encouraged among less informed consumers, we might have another argument here. But it's more of people with more money than sense playing with said money. But at the least, there is SOME form of compensation. Even if the cards have little value on the secondary market, they are still official cards you own and can do anything with (obvious copyright infringements aside).

Imagine say.... if I unlock a model/skin for X game. I could blow that .obj into a 3D printing program and go from there. That would at least be a STEP in the right direction.

Zaune brings up a good point: if I HAVE TO HAVE a Shivan Dragon. There's nothing stopping me from getting one from another collector. There is a control past the owner of the IP. With the "digital age" the IP owners hold (sorry for the pun) all the cards. They control every aspect of the system and can even destroy it, with no compensation to the owner, at any time. EA has already done this for a few IPs over the past few years. Though those games weren't related to the gambling itself, the digital age is cancer for the consumer.

It's the progressions to this system that finally broke my back. We aren't even buying "Horse Armor DLC" anymore. We aren't playing X hours and gaining Y XP to reach Z level. We aren't putting in X kills with Y weapon to unlock Z accessory for Y weapon. We're buying packs that could contain anything from Daedric weapons to vendor trash, but due to probability, would most likely contain vendor trash.

We've actually taken a STEP BACK from shit like "gear/progression treadmills." Even WoW is not immune from this. Even though money is not involved, you get gear for doing X content. However, with the addition of Warforging (plusgood) and Titanforging (doubleplusgood), the normal version of the item might be total dogshit.

And this is intentional since the loot treadmill isn't shitty enough for the current WoW dev team. They want to turn "no content" into "more content" due to flaws in human nature.

User avatar
Zixinus
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 6496
Joined: 2007-06-19 12:48pm
Location: In Seth the Blitzspear
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Zixinus » 2017-11-26 08:35am

The other difference is that with card games, you get, well, cards. They are the end-point.

With loot crates, you get virtual money to spend on virtual things.
Credo!
Chat with me on Skype if you want to talk about writing, ideas or if you want a test-reader! PM for address.

User avatar
Ace Pace
Hardware Lover
Posts: 8216
Joined: 2002-07-07 03:04am
Location: Wasting time instead of money
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Ace Pace » 2017-11-26 01:26pm

Zixinus wrote:
2017-11-26 08:35am
The other difference is that with card games, you get, well, cards. They are the end-point.

With loot crates, you get virtual money to spend on virtual things.
What's the difference?
Brotherhood of the Bear | HAB | Mess | SDnet archivist |

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-26 02:49pm

Ace Pace wrote:
2017-11-26 01:26pm
Zixinus wrote:
2017-11-26 08:35am
The other difference is that with card games, you get, well, cards. They are the end-point.

With loot crates, you get virtual money to spend on virtual things.
What's the difference?
That's actually a good question because gambling in it's broadest sense is taking a risk without knowing the outcome, but hoping for a beneficial one. It applies to a whole lot of things. If I buy a car, I can hope the engine holds out, the value doesn't depreciate quickly, it does what I need to to do. Hell, even how well you "fit" into it can be a gamble that a test drive done for 15-30 minutes can't compare to driving it for 1,000 miles.

But the gamble in buying a car is not "will I get a vehicle?"

The other difference is control or actual ownership. If I buy a book, I don't own those words, but I have unlimited access to all the words on those pages for as long as I hold that book. A publisher cannot revoke my access to those words. With digital sales, I'm essentially renting access to the words even on something I paid full-price for. It's very clearly stated that right can be revoked for any reason without any compensation. There's a fair amount of value in having a physical copy of something.

This extends past just gambling: no one can ever stop me from installing and playing Diablo 1 or 2. Even if my disks break, there is a secondary market around. But if the Diablo 3 servers go down?

And lastly, many TCGs/CCGs are setup in a way with a guaranteed payout, though it does fluctuation. However, as Heroes is the only F2P garbage I bother with, you could theoretically buy 1,000 loot boxes and get 4,000 commons. None of any of the stuff has any value outside personal "oh man, I got X skin I wanted" because I can't do anything with it. So, it's really worse than gambling.

It's a sliding scale of gambling. At least with MtG, there is a payout. With many video games, there's first off: no payout. You can't do anything with what you purchase or win. Second, the complete randomness of the system means you've basically got the Slots system that never pays out a red cent. And the access to all your non-payout can (and will, since games don't run forever) evaporate at a moments notice.

User avatar
Zixinus
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 6496
Joined: 2007-06-19 12:48pm
Location: In Seth the Blitzspear
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Zixinus » 2017-11-27 11:02am

What's the difference?
As far as I understand how these things work: the difference between buying stamps for a stamp collection and buying tokens at a casino.

Sure, stamp collectors can in the end can "cash in" their stamps to send mail. But stamp collectors don't use collected stamps for that. Stamps have independent value, even if the stamp is no longer usable for posting. The value to buyers is sentimental, even if the gray market a stamp would have high monetary value. The same with Magic or Pokémon cards. The publishers could run out of business but that won't stop people using those cards to play. Thus trading cards are things that are the end-product, your booster-pack isn't a stand-in for money but a product.

Whereas, tokens at a casino is tied to the casino service and has no independent value. You can't use them for anything else but for the casino. Even if there are different tokens for different services, they are tied to the casino and so is the service you buy. This is doubly true if you tie the tokens to people, so they cannot be traded. Without the casino, the tokens are worthless and have no practical use (except maybe sentimental value but everything has that).
Credo!
Chat with me on Skype if you want to talk about writing, ideas or if you want a test-reader! PM for address.

User avatar
Ace Pace
Hardware Lover
Posts: 8216
Joined: 2002-07-07 03:04am
Location: Wasting time instead of money
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Ace Pace » 2017-11-27 11:24am

Zixinus wrote:
2017-11-27 11:02am
What's the difference?
As far as I understand how these things work: the difference between buying stamps for a stamp collection and buying tokens at a casino.

Sure, stamp collectors can in the end can "cash in" their stamps to send mail. But stamp collectors don't use collected stamps for that. Stamps have independent value, even if the stamp is no longer usable for posting. The value to buyers is sentimental, even if the gray market a stamp would have high monetary value. The same with Magic or Pokémon cards. The publishers could run out of business but that won't stop people using those cards to play. Thus trading cards are things that are the end-product, your booster-pack isn't a stand-in for money but a product.

Whereas, tokens at a casino is tied to the casino service and has no independent value. You can't use them for anything else but for the casino. Even if there are different tokens for different services, they are tied to the casino and so is the service you buy. This is doubly true if you tie the tokens to people, so they cannot be traded. Without the casino, the tokens are worthless and have no practical use (except maybe sentimental value but everything has that).
I agree, that's the trick, and not a giant story on probability. The problem is that's true of all digital items hosted server side. The problem is this line is a bitch to argue about, because it's arguable that even if they gave you "the assets" locally, people would still complain.

AKA if you narrow it down, aside from the digital divide, what's the difference between CCG booster packs (which no one considers gambling) and this?
Brotherhood of the Bear | HAB | Mess | SDnet archivist |

User avatar
Zaune
Sith Acolyte
Posts: 6007
Joined: 2010-06-21 11:05am
Location: In Transit
Contact:

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Zaune » 2017-11-28 04:35am

Ace Pace wrote:
2017-11-27 11:24am
AKA if you narrow it down, aside from the digital divide, what's the difference between CCG booster packs (which no one considers gambling) and this?
Because in a CCG booster pack, even if you get a card you don't want it still has value; half the point of those games is trading cards among yourselves to build your deck. And generally speaking this doesn't involve money changing hands, unless rare cards are involved but those generally sell for far more money than the price of a booster pack anyway. For the most part a player can simply swap a card they can't use or already have with someone else for a more suitable one of equal value.
There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.
-- (Terry Pratchett, Small Gods)


Replace "ginger" with "n*gger," and suddenly it become a lot less funny, doesn't it?
-- fgalkin


Like my writing? Tip me on Patreon

I Have A Blog

User avatar
Lagmonster
Master Control Program
Master Control Program
Posts: 7709
Joined: 2002-07-04 09:53am
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Lagmonster » 2017-11-28 09:58am

TheFeniX wrote:
2017-11-26 02:49pm
If I buy a car, I can hope the engine holds out, the value doesn't depreciate quickly, it does what I need to to do. Hell, even how well you "fit" into it can be a gamble that a test drive done for 15-30 minutes can't compare to driving it for 1,000 miles.

But the gamble in buying a car is not "will I get a vehicle?"
Speculating on the outcome of things in normal life isn't really gambling, and on at least one level it gets my goat that people refer to things like eyeballing whether you can make it across the road before that Semi gets there as "gambling with your life". It's...really not. It's risk management. I wholly agree with what you're saying, mind you. I just think that the rabbit hole of 'what is gambling' can end right at 'is it a form of gaming?'.

EA has figured out how to sell legal gambling to teenagers, and frankly I'm astounded that nobody brought this up to lawmakers earlier except that lawmakers are usually about a decade behind technology.

My assumption would be that unless lawmakers don't act, loot crates will go back to solely using in-game currencies that you can't buy with real money (thus avoiding the problem of being termed gambling), and real money will be spent on microtransactions. If lawmakers don't act, then fuck you, consumer.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-28 11:15am

Lagmonster wrote:
2017-11-28 09:58am
Speculating on the outcome of things in normal life isn't really gambling, and on at least one level it gets my goat that people refer to things like eyeballing whether you can make it across the road before that Semi gets there as "gambling with your life". It's...really not. It's risk management. I wholly agree with what you're saying, mind you. I just think that the rabbit hole of 'what is gambling' can end right at 'is it a form of gaming?'.
Fair enough.
EA has figured out how to sell legal gambling to teenagers, and frankly I'm astounded that nobody brought this up to lawmakers earlier except that lawmakers are usually about a decade behind technology.
I didn't even realize how bad it was until the "latest" Gamingsins video. They cut the cost of the Heroes by 75% after backlash, but also cut the credit payout in certain modes. There's also an hourly credit cap in Arcade (single-player mode) which is essentially a "fuck you, pay me" shit from F2P mobile garbage. Pay more to unlock the game 3 days early. The video itself is kind of weak, I miss the British guy, but brings up some good points. You can't even just buy a fucking $60 AAA game anymore. We should consider a whole new genre to contain this megalith of shitty ideas. Like "F2PMMOMOBILEP2WGETFUCKED."

Game looks pretty damn great though. A shame it's covered up by a pile of EAs bullshit.

User avatar
Elheru Aran
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 11969
Joined: 2004-03-04 01:15am
Location: Georgia

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-11-28 11:40am

Seriously. What ever happened to games where you... y'know... actually played your way to upgrades and heroes, rather than short-cutting by throwing money around, either fake or real? I get that there's an audience for the pay-to-win stuff, but I feel like there *should* be a market for more basic game economies where you... I don't know, this is weird[/sarcasm]... buy a game and play it through, and if you like it, keep playing it to keep leveling up your character and earning more perks? Because, you know, that's not how games always used to work until the Internet and asshole corporations happened?
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-28 12:17pm

I agree with the sentiment, but it's always been there. You have to remember, EA and Activision have been around forever, much more so Activision. They've always been the "big boys" with little to no vision who rely on smaller dedicated groups of developers to actually create anything. This has always been EAs entire business model. I don't think they've ever had an original idea as a company. Maybe Dead Space, then those guys broke off because "Fuck EA."

These publishing houses just needed their chance and the technology to fuck you. And the expansion of the gaming market into the average household and parents not savy enough to password protect their CC info on their iPad/Xbox gave them that chance. Pretty much every video game you remember fondly came out of these small types of team that then got gobbled up and bueacratised to high Hell. On the EA front, look at DICE after BF1942 for just one. Really, all of them. Blizzard held out longer than I expected after the merger with Activision and they could only do that because Blizzard's few IP are fucking MONSTERS: Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo. But as WoW slowed down, they needed to keep paying out shareholders, so rather than doing something constructive: it's cash-shops and loot boxes all the way.

And those markets do exist, in those smaller development studios. For all the shit I give Steam, at least you can get self-publishing studios like Larian to pump out Divinity OS 2. EA wouldn't make that game because a "Diablo clone with more RPG elements" screams "MMO, $15 a month to gouge on a shitty WoW clone!" The idea of a one-shot $60 game is cancer to them now. It's like making a kid's movie when you can't sell toys because of it: they don't bother.

This same reasoning is why we don't have a multiplayer Elder Scrolls game, or really another Neverwinter Nights. And no, ESO does not fucking count. This same shit is ALSO why co-op fucking died even though it was all the rage in the early 2000s: there's few places you can gouge people when they are busy having fun with friends.

Shit's broken, best I've found myself able to to is support those studios with novel ideas and the will to implement a $40-$60 game, and that's all the money they need outside expansion packs. Or, and I can't believe I'm saying this, Epic pumping out something like the Unreal engine for free use and just charging if you make money off what you made. That's lead to a whooole lot of early-access garbage, but at least that's something.

User avatar
Elheru Aran
Emperor's Hand
Posts: 11969
Joined: 2004-03-04 01:15am
Location: Georgia

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Elheru Aran » 2017-11-28 12:54pm

Yeah, I've pretty much given up on modern gaming for that reason. The last games I actually paid money for were a bunch of old Star Wars stuff off Humble Bundle. I'd be happy to pay money for say Skyrim or a really good single player 40K FPS... but you wouldn't catch me dead playing them online. And when you throw in all the bullshit that's been happening lately... nah. Fuck that.

I mean. I like STO. But the constant pushing of loot box drops and key selling and all that is just... disheartening. It got to the point where like... half my game-bank account was various loot-boxes that I was keeping around on the off chance I might actually shell out money for a key, but given the odds of getting shit when I open a box, I wasn't going to fucking bother. I only gamble when I know I have a halfway decent chance of winning, and that ain't it.
It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-28 01:10pm

Elheru Aran wrote:
2017-11-28 12:54pm
Yeah, I've pretty much given up on modern gaming for that reason. The last games I actually paid money for were a bunch of old Star Wars stuff off Humble Bundle. I'd be happy to pay money for say Skyrim or a really good single player 40K FPS... but you wouldn't catch me dead playing them online. And when you throw in all the bullshit that's been happening lately... nah. Fuck that.
I'm going back to Nintendo. The kid will be old enough here soon to possibly start caring about video games and for all their faults, man it is REALLY hard to not consider Nintendo one of the few good hold-outs. You want Mario, you buy a game with Mario in it. Yea, they are milking the old stuff with their retro console stuff, but man at least that's content and... those games were pretty fucking good.

I'll just muddle through whatever shitty PC games come out, but if the indie scene doesn't hold out, I may just have to give up at some point.
I mean. I like STO. But the constant pushing of loot box drops and key selling and all that is just... disheartening. It got to the point where like... half my game-bank account was various loot-boxes that I was keeping around on the off chance I might actually shell out money for a key, but given the odds of getting shit when I open a box, I wasn't going to fucking bother. I only gamble when I know I have a halfway decent chance of winning, and that ain't it.
God damn that key system made me instantly re-uninstall. It's the same shit with the USB sticks in Killing Floor 2, but at least those are just going to be cosmetic bullshit, you can break them down, and the game has mods.

I want to talk shit about ESO cash shop, but it's honestly not that bad. Mostly cosmetic and the game isn't about PvP anyway. I have not messed with the Crown Crate bullshit though. Really, Beth/Zeni is bad at this. They've got cash shop shit for Fallout Shelter, but you can just load a modded save. Lucky for them, there's more than enough people that just don't know any better.

bilateralrope
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2005-06-25 06:50pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2017-11-30 12:53am

On the anti-lootbox side, we have groups opposed to gambling in general getting involved. The "think of the children" argument has been deployed in a situation where it applies.

On the pro-lootbox side we have EA spouting blatant lies like "we had to go pay to win to stay canon".

EA explains why Battlefront 2 didn’t focus on cosmetics in loot boxes
Concerns over Star Wars canon were to blame, EA CFO says
by Michael McWhertor@MikeMcWhertor Nov 28, 2017, 4:12pm EST


Electronic Arts’ confusing and controversial in-game economy for Star Wars Battlefront 2 was so unpopular with fans of the franchise, the publisher was forced to rip out in-game purchases from the game just hours before it officially launched. So why did EA and DICE opt for a complex economy of credits, crystals, Craft Parts and Star Cards instead of, say, cosmetic skins for its heroes? In part, it seems, it was due to concerns with violating the Star Wars canon.

Cosmetic items have proved popular in games like Overwatch, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty, and with a wide variety of costumes available to Star Wars’ heroes and villains, treating the heroes of Battlefront 2 more like Kenner action figures seems like a logical monetization solution for EA.

But EA chief financial officer Blake Jorgensen said today that it’s not as simple as that. When asked why EA didn’t stuff Battlefront 2’s loot boxes with cosmetic items that players could purchase, Jorgensen said the company went down a different path to stay true to canon and Star Wars realism.

“The one thing we're very focused on and they are extremely focused on is not violating the canon of Star Wars,” Jorgensen said at the Credit Suisse Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference. “It's an amazing brand that’s been built over many, many years, and so if you did a bunch of cosmetic things, you might start to violate the canon, right? Darth Vader in white probably doesn't make sense, versus in black. Not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink. No offense to pink, but I don't think that's right in the canon.

“So, there might be things that we can do cosmetically, and we’re working with Lucas[film] on that. But coming into it, it wasn’t as easy as if we were building a game around our own IP where it didn’t really matter. It matters in Star Wars, because Star Wars fans want realism. But Star Wars fans may also want to tailor things — a different colored lightsaber, things like that. So you might see some of that.”

It’s easy to poke some holes in Jorgensen’s reasoning here, given that Battlefront 2’s multiplayer (where those cosmetic items would be used anyway) is violating canon all over the place. Having prequel-era Darth Maul and Rey from The Force Awakens on the same battlefield doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, timeline-wise. So why not go Ugnaught wild and add Lucasfilm-sanctioned variants like Samurai Darth Vader or Ralph McQuarrie’s original design to the game as skins? Hell, white or pink Vader is fine with me. As someone who personally owned a dozen Luke Skywalker action figures can attest, fans do care about this stuff — and canon be damned if it means I can play as Wampa-damaged Luke Skywalker in Hoth gear or hologram Emperor Palpatine.

We can also point to 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront, which included a bunch of cosmetic options for Rebel and Imperial foot soldiers. In that game, players could unlock a variety of races, genders and facial options, letting them play as, say, a Rodian Rebel or a woman Stormtrooper (which was something of a novelty at the time). Those weren’t canon deviations, but they at least added some customization to the troops.

Obviously EA needs to play by Lucasfilm’s rules when it comes to Star Wars, and it sounds like they were forced to when it comes to cosmetics. Plus, getting approvals on potentially dozens of character and weapon skins sounds like a nightmare when trying to get a licensed AAA game out the door. But hopefully the two parties will figure out a smarter solution, one that will satisfy Star Wars fans and corporate interests, by the time Battlefront 3 rolls around.
Someone found an unused character customization menu burred in the game code.

I get the feeling that EA and Disney are trying to shift the blame to each other. But only Disney has competent PR people.

User avatar
TheFeniX
Sith Marauder
Posts: 4527
Joined: 2003-06-26 04:24pm
Location: Texas

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by TheFeniX » 2017-11-30 01:42am

This is the same combo of DICE and EA that were spamming expansion pack adds not even a week after releasing a BF2 patch that bricked peoples Windows installs. PR isn't a top priority.

I find it funny that instead of considering cutting the transactions, they instead went full p2w when and if cosmetics were taken off the table.

Please stop giving EA and companies like them money. Even if you have to miss a few good games, the price is not worth the cost.

User avatar
Dominus Atheos
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3685
Joined: 2005-09-15 09:41pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by Dominus Atheos » 2017-11-30 02:55am

Ace Pace wrote:
2017-11-27 11:24am

I agree, that's the trick, and not a giant story on probability. The problem is that's true of all digital items hosted server side. The problem is this line is a bitch to argue about, because it's arguable that even if they gave you "the assets" locally, people would still complain.

AKA if you narrow it down, aside from the digital divide, what's the difference between CCG booster packs (which no one considers gambling) and this?
The fact that no one considers booster packs gambling, actually. Gambling and gambling addiction are in the eye of the beholder. If no one is "addicted" to booster packs, If no one is blowing their entire paychecks on them just for the thrill of opening them, and if booster pack producers aren't exploiting their customers and their addictions to gambling, then it's not gambling.

Gambling addicts don't gamble because they think that they will make money or something else of value, just for some "rush" that they get out of the very act of gambling. And casinos/etc work very hard to exploit that.

bilateralrope
Sith Marauder
Posts: 3647
Joined: 2005-06-25 06:50pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: Belgium Considering Ban Loot Box Gambling

Post by bilateralrope » 2017-11-30 08:00am

Here's a story about the kind of customer that microtransaction heavy game devs/publishers want. The kind of customer that they call a "whale".

Meet The 19-Year-Old Who Spent Over $17,000 On Microtransactions
At the height of the controversy surrounding microtransactions in Star Wars Battlefront 2, a Reddit user who goes by the name Kensgold posted an open letter to publisher EA and other developers in the video game industry. "I am 19 and addicted to gambling," he wrote. Kensgold wasn't talking about roulette tables or online poker. He was talking about spending over $17,000 on in-game purchases over the last several years.
Kensgold, who asked that we not use his real name, shared with Kotaku his bank statements and receipts proving that he had indeed spent $US13500.25 ($17,827) in games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Smite and The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth over the past three years. His post was a plea to the people who design and sell games to take note of the effect microtransactions in games can have on the small population of people who are especially susceptible to them. He includes himself in this group, and while he's legally an adult now, he says the lure of spending money for rewards in his favourite games started when he was only 13. The first was a browser city-building game Kensgold remembers being similar to Clash of Clans. "I think I spent around $30 [$AU40] on it but I was also very young and had actually no income whatsoever," he said during a phone interview.

A year later, he had moved on to the now defunct The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth. Released in 2013, the smartphone game was notorious for its repetitive grind and pay-to-win microtransactions. In it, players built up a city by harvesting resources, buying armies, and earning upgrades to make their units better. Players could progress faster by paying money, which was incentivised by the game's competitive aspect. Players could launch attacks on one another's cities, making the power of their defences and armies a matter not just of pride but survival. In order to protect their own resources from getting looted by other players, buying Mithril, Kingdoms of Middle-earth's in-game currency, was a must. It's part of what got the game trashed by reviewers (back when people were still reviewing pay-to-win mobile games).

Kensgold guesses that the players at the top of Kingdoms of Middle-earth's leaderboard spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay there, even sending Google Play cards to other players in their guilds to help boost the strength of their overall teams. As a result of these "whales", the gaming industry's term for individual players who contribute a disproportionate amount of a game's microtransaction revenue, other players who wanted the chance to be competitive would have to spend as much as they could as often as possible. In Kensgold's case, this meant hundreds of dollars a month. In the winter of 2015, he'd spent around $US800 ($1056) in Kingdoms of Middle-earth purchases. Over the course of that entire year, thanks to that and other microtransaction-heavy games such as Clash of Kings and Age of Warring Empire, he spent $US4116 ($5435).

"It never feels like you're making a good decision when you spend that hundred dollars," he said. "But at the time I was like, 'What else am I going to spend it on?' There weren't really any repercussions to enforce like, 'Yo, idiot, stop.'"

At the time, Kensgold was a Year 10 student in high school with no car and a part-time job at Panera. Of the $US300-400 ($396-528) paycheck he received every two weeks, he reckons he spent about 90 per cent of it on in-app purchases. His grandparents started to worry and his mum tried to shut off their internet to stop him from playing, but with a smartphone and a 3G connection, circumventing those obstacles was easy. He even got a second job to fuel his addiction.

A list of Kensgold's bank transactions for the last three years shows over $US10,000 ($13,205) in debit payments to places including Steam, Google Play and Blizzard.

What ultimately threw Kensgold off Kingdoms of Middle-earth wasn't a dramatic intervention by friends or family. The game's developer, Kabam, sold it off to a Chinese company in January of 2016. That company proceeded to make changes to the game that drove fans to abandon it en masse, according to Kensgold. With most of his in-game friends gone, he had no more incentive to keep buying upgrades and competing.

Instead, his high school friends started to get into PC gaming. Kensgold saved up to buy a better computer and by Year 11 he had moved from spending money on smartphone games to spending it on microtranasctions in games such as Smite and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which let you pay real money on cosmetic items for characters.

At the height of his interest in Smite, Kensgold said he owned over 300 of the game's character skins. But those skins were purely cosmetic - they had no affect on gameplay. After spending all that money just to stay competitive in Kingdoms of Middle-earth, why did he still feel the drive to spend money on games he could otherwise enjoy for nearly free?

"I think it stems from the fact that I had set a precedent in those mobile games that a hundred dollars isn't all that much," Kensgold said. "It's not a really big deal if I see that skin and I really want it, because it looks awesome. And if I just drop 100 bucks I'm pretty much guaranteed to get that kind of thing." He'd see a friend playing a character in a costume that he didn't have and immediately feel the urge to spend the $10, $20 or $50 it cost to get it. It was all too familiar by that point to give him pause.

"When you're about to click the button going 'Do you agree to spend $100?' you don't really get the feeling of that low kind of gut punch that I get now."

Kensgold doesn't play Smite or Counter-Strike Go any more. After finally talking with his therapist about his spending habits earlier this year, Kensgold made a decision to stop gambling with CS:GO skins and liquidate his collection, put the remaining money back in his bank account, and begin moving down a different path - one in which he tried to keep microtransactions and in-game purchases at arm's length.

"I had to get up the nerve to ask for help," Kensgold said. "To get a therapist to lay it out for me, like 'This is what you're doing, this is how you can help yourself, here are the tools to help you.'"

That was enough to help him turn things around. "You don't really expect it to help as much as it does," he said. The original post on Reddit was his way of trying to share that realisation with other people. The debate around loot boxes and microtransactions has a tendency to focus on the feud between faceless corporations and nameless masses of fans, as it did in the case of Battlefront 2. For Kensgold, though, the issue is much more personal, and has to do with the population of people like him - whales - for whom microtransactions can become addictive.

"The majority of the reason that I made my post was not really to slam EA or any of the companies that do this, but to share my story and to show that these transactions are not as innocent as they really appear to be," Kensgold said. "They can lead you down a path. It's not like buying a stick of gum at the store."

For that reason, Kensgold sometimes has to tell friends he can't play a certain game with them, like Black Desert: Online for instance. As the backlash against in-game purchases has grown, it's become easier to explain his aversion to these games to people. "But for a while it was difficult to tell your friends that you can't play with them just because of the way the game is implemented," he said.

Despite all of the money he's spent, and all of the long hours he worked to earn it in the first place, Kensgold hasn't been able to quit in-game purchases completely. He's played PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds since the beta, but having collected most of the game's loot crate items before the developers began selling them for real money, he's managed not to fall into that game's trap. In the end, it's really just about being aware of his vulnerability and doing his best not to ever let it get that bad again.

It's also about making sure that other fans and potential whales are kept aware. If more people realise how destructive microtransactions can be, Kensgold thinks that will help prevent others from dropping thousands of dollars on digital power-ups and cosmetics. "It's not just a one time purchase. It never is."
I expect lootbox apologists will still try to argue against age restrictions.

Post Reply