Loot Crate debate escalates, Hawaiian lawmakers speak

Loot Boxes

Last year’s explosion of negative press regarding loot crates in games (especially regarding their impact on Star Wars: Battlefront 2) is still being heard around the world. Now, the issue has reached the ears of a growing number of lawmakers.

As covered by the Hawaii Tribune Herald, the latest force to get involved is the Hawaiian state government, members of which have proposed two new laws that could have massive repercussions on the industry if they were to become nationwide law.

The first proposed change, split between House Bill 2686 and Senate Bill 3024, would probably be the most damaging. It prohibits the sale of ‘any game featuring a system wherein players can purchase a randomized reward using real money to anyone younger than 21 years old’. While I understand the intent (consumer protections are important), this seems overly broad, and could have catastrophic effects on a number of related industries.

Collectible card games are the first thing that spring to mind. In some ways they’re the original loot crates [do Panini sticker albums counts – footie ed]. As a teenager, I admit to spending a little money every weekend or two on Magic: The Gathering booster packs, and generations since have grown up with the likes of the Pokemon CCG, Yu-Gi-Oh and now the likes of Hearthstone. Funnily enough, this would have no effect on Living Card Games such as Netrunner, which sell fixed expansion packs of cards with no random elements.

The second proposed law, encompassing House Bill 2727 and Senate Bill 3025, strikes me as far more reasonable. It would require video game publishers to ‘prominently label games containing such randomized purchase systems, as well as disclose the probability rates of receiving each loot box reward’. This not only seems like a more likely bill to be passed, but increases transparency in a way that I would be happy to see.

This is also similar to a recent Chinese law passed that forces games with loot crate or mobile style ‘Gacha’ mechanics to post the full odds on each and every loot box, allowing players to weigh up their chances a little better. Granted, our fragile human brains are notoriously bad at calculating risk (hence the success of casinos), but at least those able to use the statistics effectively will see some advantage from it.

The nature of loot crates in games is hotly debated now, but I do feel their impact is often exaggerated. When playing Middle Earth: Shadow of War, I found myself wondering why people even worried about buying them. The packs available in-game felt entirely tacked on and unnecessary for progression in the same way that Dead Space 3’s infamous premium weapon store offered a whole lot of nothing in exchange for cold, hard cash.

Still, Battlefront 2’s crates often contain direct character upgrades that would take multiple expensive rolls to claim without careful, steady exploitation of the currency and crate payout systems for regular play. It’s bad business, tied to bad game design, and it’s understandable why some would see heaven and earth moved to prevent such a thing in games.

75 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I definitely do think that lootboxes are something that people get a little too up-in-arms about.

    But they also sorta cheapen the experience in some games, I dunno. As long as there’s a non-monetary path to getting them, I don’t much care. Overwatch, Plunkbat… both offer a way to get these things without paying more than your playtime. With Plunkbat you can then sorta sell the stuff you get for usually pitiful amounts of steambux.

    But I guess folks with kids and very little control over their kids might be concerned about that $50,000 bill from pubg corp because their kid doesn’t know that money costs money, but that’s partly on the parents, I think.

    • Viral Frog says:

      Fully on the parents. Anyone who allows their child access to an account that has their payment information saved without explicitly explaining financials to their child deserves the $50k bill their child racks up.

      • MarkCM says:

        yes, parents deserve to be impoverished or declare bankruptcy when their children steal their wallets.

        • Ushao says:

          Seconding this. My mother in law got a nasty surprise when she found her grandson had racked up charges on her card. Didn’t even steal it, he just copied the info.

        • Premium User Badge

          Drib says:

          Yeah, there’s a good chunk of a few years there where kids know enough to enter the information but have no idea how money actually works. When I was a kid, my father made $20,000 a year. I would have thought that directly translated to hundreds of games I could be buying.

          Kids are dumb.

      • ChiefOfBeef says:

        Normally I’d agree with this but don’t in this case for one simple reason: a parent has no excuse for not reading the box to see if a game has content not appropriate for their children.

        Where on the box is there any such warning for Overwatch, Battlefront 2 or Shadow of War?

      • BobbyDylan says:

        Ah… clearly spoken by someone who doesn’t have kids. I remember when my daughter was born and was told, the only experts on raising Children are people who don’t have children.

    • Banks says:

      I think that, whether you think that lootboxes are fine or not, we should strive for monetization models that are transparent, fair and reasonable. And in a respectful relationship between the publisher and the player, randomization and gambling make very little sense.

      • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

        The moment society strives for 100% financial transparency onto everything is the moment the government/corporation loses their power over a little man.

    • upupup says:

      It’s re-branded gambling. Saying that this is a very bad direction for gaming to take is hardly something to be casual about.

      • upupup says:

        To summarise, microtransactions are professionally tailored to exploit people that are weak to the addictive qualities of gambling through what is presented as a harmless, fun game. They’re also meant to prime children so that they become long-term users when they are old enough to bring in even more money. It’s a disgusting business practice.

        • BewareTheJabberwock says:

          They could solve this tomorrow by charging a set dollar/quid/yuan/whatever price for items in-game. If you want a Kill-O-Zap Blaster Pistol, it’s $5. They would probably make a fair amount of money that way, too.

          But they know they’ll make a killing by exploiting the random rewards system, because they’ve read the same studies that casinos and slot machine programmers have read.

      • Blackcompany says:

        Exactly this. Thank you.

        Random loot is Gambling. It was only a matter of time before the comeuppance. Frankly, I applaud these lawmakers and urge them to go for the throat where gambling – of any sort – in gaming is involved.

    • The First Door says:

      Loot boxes and other ‘gacha’ systems are mechanics designed to subtly manipulate you in ways you won’t notice, or worry about. Mechanics which has been tested, honed, and iterated on for years in order to make them as effective (i.e. manipulative) as possible, while maintaining just enough subtlety. I mean, they are designed to short circuit your ability to make rational decisions, and to play on just about every weakness human brains have in determining value and understanding random chance.

      ‘Proper’ gambling is regulated in most places for a reason, and it’s not just to protect children. It’s to protect a whole range of vulnerable people from ruining their lives. Stories about loot boxes have already come out, ones which closely mirror stories about gambling addicts. If anything, I’m more shocked people aren’t up in arms about this. It’s just bloody evil, to be blunt.

  2. Sir_Deimos says:

    I agree that the second bill seems reasonable and mirrors efforts in other places around the world. The first bill, on the other hand, is draconian and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how games are played on the lawmakers’ part. Especially the part about “under 21” would make it nearly impossible to implement and enforce. Would retail stores have to check ID on pretty much every game purchase? Could it mean loot boxes would only exist in “adult” games? Parents roll their eyes when sales people have to explain M rated games, this would just be another thing for them to ignore.

    I think a more effective strategy would be to not allow microtransactions to save credit card data. If you had to type in that info for every purchase it gives a chance to think “should I really buy this?” instead of the immediate regret that usually follows a $5 in game buy that gave nothing.

    • aepervius says:

      Actually this IS the reason why the payment is decoupled (for most game) from the MTX. See if you buy 1000 “Kupla Kredit” or whatever for 10$, later when you spend those 200 “Kupla Kredit”
      there is a high chance the real cost will be disassociated with the action.

      What I would LIKE to see as a law is “You are NOT allowed to have an intermediary currency to buy MTX object, or if you have the REAL price in dollar must be indicated near the other currency price, in the same color, format, font, and background visibility”.

      • Sir_Deimos says:

        Definitely! Once MTX specific currency is involved it confuses the conversation, especially if you can gain that MTX currency in-game. The only reason it’s in there is to obfuscate how much in real dollars the purchase costs, there’s no reason it couldn’t have separate “buy with in game currency” “buy with real $$$” buttons on the purchase page.

        My favorite mobile game is going through some controversy now because the prices on iPhone were more expensive than Android so this would only further shine light on these situations.

        • gnalvl says:

          There’s also the conundrum that in-game currency can frequently only be bought in specific increments of around $5. So then even when you know the “exchange rate”, there’s a false sense of savings when you see an item selling for the equivalent of i.e. $7.

          Sure, the item is listed for under $10 currency, but you’re going to have to spend $10 to get sufficient currency anyway. So then you wind up with $3 of unused currency in your account; it’s not like you can spend it anywhere else. In theory you could save it, but most likely you’ll use it immediately to impulse-buy something you didn’t really want. Then when a $3 item comes up you do want, you’ll spend $5 on more currency to get it.

      • Blackcompany says:

        I’d like to see in game currency exchange banned. Period.

        You can have Gold like Skyrim. As in game loot. But you CANNOT sell currency.

        If you want to sell items, boxes, etc, you MUST do so in exchange for a real world currency.

    • Sargonite says:

      I think that last idea could be a really interesting thing to try. Enforcing as much friction as possible with every individual purchase would help people be more cognizant of what they’re doing.

  3. Menthalion says:

    Nope, I hope the most stringent law gets passed. Collectible cards, card games and items are just as bad as P2W and loot boxes, except people have been weaned on it so they think it’s not a problem

    It’s all grooming children and adolescents to be OK with gambling when they grow up. Any game with randomized payouts where the odds are only known to one side should be banned.

    And no, publishing odds can still be circumvented by things like higher chances on duplicates. You still get the legendaries they published, but not the ones you have any use for.

    • Sir_Deimos says:

      The problem with this approach is that microtransactions are a major part of publisher’s bottom lines. If we took them out of games entirely, publishers would have to make that up by charging more for the game up front. When AAA titles are already $100 after DLC, I don’t want to imagine where it goes from there.

      I think as long as loot boxes are left to cosmetics and have 0 impact on gameplay they’re fine. Battlefront II having loot with stats is making everyone throw the baby out with the bath water because of a very important difference.

      • khamul says:

        Hmmm. Except that it is the legal responsibility of the Exec to make as much money for their shareholders as they are able to.

        So… do businesses put loot crates in their games because otherwise they’d have to raise prices to make a decent profit? Or do they add them because it’s a revenue stream that hasn’t normalised yet in the economy, so it’s a way to turn a decent profit into a money fountain? As they are required to do, if they can.

        There is more money to be made unethically than ethically: otherwise there’d be no criminals. So the borderline – where we haven’t quite decided what’s illegal yet – is the best place to be if you want to make real money, legally.

        • Sir_Deimos says:

          That’s exactly right. Publishers found a new revenue stream that simply didn’t exist before and tapped into it HARD because it was legal but unethical. Budgets have now been written with this revenue in place, if you just shut that off without any replacement the burden is going to fall on low-level employees and consumers, not the people that decided to use unethical practices to make money. Even if it wasn’t that the sticker price increased, they would find another way to make that money while continuing to skirt the laws. In this case, I prefer the devil I know and can choose to avoid while plenty of people choose to dive in.

          • Kittim says:

            What ROT!
            If publishers want to make money, make a better game. Not a gambling system that exploits children.

            You’re happy to tolerate a system because you don’t claim to use it or want to use it. Yet, you’re also happy to indirectly benefit from it because kids too young to know and adults with gambling addictions pay into said system. You get the games you want without a price increase. Nice.

          • khamul says:

            You’re right – the budgets are now in place. But the model is not sustainable: one way or another, society and the system will adjust.

            One possible outcome is that we all get so sick of this shit that we go and play badminton or something rather than computer games, the toxic industry dies off, and in a decade or so a new wave of businesses move into the niche left vacant, and exploit it slightly more cautiously.

            A less extreme solution is legislation to clarify the boundary, and keep business on the side of ‘ethical’, more-or-less.

            Or, you know, a radical solution would be to recognise that all those shareholders that it is the exec’s responsibility to serve are actual human beings living on the same actual planet. And because the majority of shares are held by pension funds, actually, it’s a hell of a lot of normal human beings the business answers to. So pissing in the well all those people are drinking out of, in order to make a few extra bucks, is not exactly serving their best interests.

            But that kind of realisation happens on other planets. Better ones than this one.

        • Asurmen says:

          Looking at the profit thing online, it doesn’t seem like there’s a strict requirement for highest profit. A corporation can be formed for whatever legal reason it wishes.

          As long as business decisions were made on some kind of sound business reason, everything is fine. Of course, a shareholder can push for a board to be replaced if they don’t like things.

      • aepervius says:

        EA has a LEGAL obligation to tell the truth to shareholder. EA told their shareholder that for BF2 , the Mtx temporary removal will not impact their bottom line (projected earning). Furthermore if you look at game cost, in reality marketing took a HUGE peak in the last two decades to the points it is often estimated marketing take near enough 50% of the total budget. So the “mhhahaaha *wailambulance* game cost too much to be made” is mostly BS as they could cut on marketing cost for example.

        Anyway the price is already at 100$ with the season pass which often does not contain content enough to warrant the additional supposed 40$, and can be argued to sometimes contain content which should have been at release. So you are already there in a way.

        • upupup says:

          That share holder statement was pretty telling, but anyone who has worked in the industry for long enough already knew that any company stating otherwise was lying. If you cannot stay profitable as a popular AAA publisher without microtransactions, then you are utterly incompetent.

      • upupup says:

        They’re not. The industry has done just fine getting to this point without them and in fact is incredibly profitable. That they want more money doesn’t mean that they need it.

      • Daemoroth says:

        Do people like you never read what publishers tell their SHAREHOLDERS!? This whole “oh they can’t afford to do business” is utter BS.

        Read this: link to ubistatic19-a.akamaihd.net. With titles like “An Expanding Market”, “The Most Attractive Entertainment Segment”, “A More Recurring and More Profitable Business”, “Exceptional, Long Term Shareholder Value Creation”, “Exceptional and Sustained Growth” and “Massive Growth Potential and Higher Profitability Ahead”.

        Top that off with an expected non-IFRS operating INCOME of 270 M€ for FY18 and projected income 440 M€ for FY19, and I fail to see how you can stand there and talk as if the publishers are barely surviving without loot boxes.

        Every major publisher’s shareholder return outperforms NASDAQ by at least double, SIX times in Ubisoft’s case.

        Even if they DID need the additional money, there is no need for loot boxes, for custom currency sold in disparate ratios to confuse the actual value, and all the other crap they use to try and get people to spend more without knowing how much they’re spending.

        This insipid defense of loot boxes and publishers’ “viability as a business” needs to FOAD, and you need to start paying attention when they talk to their actual customers: the shareholders.

      • ludde says:

        Oh please, they’ll be fine. Have a look at the earnings reports, it’s not like they’d go under if they made slightly less piles of money.

        Maybe start doing and charging for real content again instead? We used to call them expansion packs.

    • M0dusPwnens says:

      I agree. I find it extremely unfortunate that, just because they may have been part of our childhoods and therefore feel more normalized, there’s all of this hand-wringing about collectible card games.

      Banning randomized collectible card games would be great. These systems are, at best, predatory, and if that should be acceptable in any context, it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable when aimed at children.

      Frankly, I think it should go even further. Publishing odds is better than nothing, and banning children from it is surely ethical, but they ought to just be banned period. They certainly ought to be banned anywhere that already bans gambling.

      We know for a fact that people respond differently to randomized rewards. These randomized reward schemes are not just a fun variation on fixed rewards, they’re a predatory pricing technique used to extract more money from people than you would be able to if you presented them with fixed prices. And it’s entirely artificial – the randomized pricing scheme is not some natural consequence of the assets being sold, it’s a deliberate strategy for increasing revenue. It’s predatory, plain and simple.

    • Kittim says:

      Spot on! 100% agree!

    • April March says:

      I agree as well. Sure, since TCG are physical objects, it makes a little more sense to charge for a random thing. (Just compare prices with Netrunner, if you’re a casual player.) But, ultimately, no game would be worse if players could buy the cards they wanted without relying on luck. Except for drafting, I guess, but I feel that’s just a way to make its awful distribution method feel more palatable.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Agreed completely. Gaming existed before it instituted gambling. It will as a medium adapt.

      Tired of exploitative business practices. Maybe this will lead to publishers needing to actually care about fun factor again…

  4. Viral Frog says:

    I fully support the strictest of these bills. Trading card games are literally no better than lootboxes. As Menthalion above me has said, we’ve just been conditioned to believe that the random aspect of trading cards is somehow okay.

    Lootboxes need to die. Period. They are purely just a way of exploiting gullible people. Of course, it’d be nice if less people were stupid enough to be taken advantage of. Sadly, it’s easier to just regulate lootboxes into the dirt than it is to teach people to make intelligent decisions.

    • Sir_Deimos says:

      If you’re saying that something should be banned entirely because it takes advantage of people, does that means we should ban all casinos even though plenty of people have fun in them? You’re completely discrediting the idea that some people enjoy loot boxes when they’re done well.

      • aepervius says:

        In some country Casino are banned or very heavily restricted, with people having to speak to you every X minutes to check on you , and some are forced to carry brochure about gambling addiction in promeminence near their payment counter.

      • Menthalion says:

        Can’t you think of any alternatives that would be just as enjoyable ? Like in-game credits you can use to buy visuals ?

        Or are you one the people that actually enjoys throwing away time and money on stuff you don’t want or need ? Plenty of opportunity to do that in life.

        Like there’s people that enjoy smoking, sure you can, but don’t go about pretending it’s a good idea.

        • Sir_Deimos says:

          I’m not going to try to say it’s a good use of money, most forms of entertainment aren’t. But if people want to spend their money in the way they enjoy, why should a government say they’re not allowed to?

          We let people spend money on alcohol and cigarettes, why should gambling be different?

          • napoleonic says:

            We don’t let children buy alcohol or cigarettes, though, and we even penalise people who supply them to children.

          • April March says:

            Because money allows people and organization to gain power, in a myriad of direct and indirect ways. One of the government’s jobs is to decrease the chances of an environment in which an entity or group of entities can gain unresoanable control of society by just being the most ruthless.

            Of course, since I just described banks, it’s not clear it’s working anyway.

          • Archonsod says:

            You’ve also just described governments, so really the only thing we can conclude is this whole society thing was probably a bad idea to begin with.

          • ludde says:

            Most forms of entertainment aren’t good use of money? You really think that all of culture isn’t worthwhile?

            Just stop.

      • Vilos Cohaagen says:

        @Sir_Deimos: yes. Ban them, they are tumours on society and the poor.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I agree fully with you. Microtransactions are attempting to insidiously inculcate a culture of uncontrolled spending and gambling in the young and old alike. Plus by their very nature they make games worse as the developers want to drag out the “experience” to monetise it more.

  5. Seafoam says:

    Sad thing overwatch always becomes the symbol of these lootbox controversies.
    They have the best and the least intrusive system compared to their contemporaries.

    • mitrovarr says:

      In some ways this is true, but time-limited events with event skins that cost huge number of credits is starting to get pretty abusive.

    • April March says:

      That’s like being the world’s most polite and kind mafia hitman.

    • upupup says:

      Overwatch is just as scummy as the rest. Their lootboxes are delicately tailored to be as addicting as possible and are on top of the game already being full-price. Blizzard has an excellent pr-department though.

  6. sosolidshoe says:

    “The nature of loot crates in games is hotly debated now, but I do feel their impact is often exaggerated. When playing Middle Earth: Shadow of War, I found myself wondering why people even worried about buying them.”

    “I have fully functioning limbs and don’t find climbing stairs troublesome, what are all these wheelchairbound disabled people whinging about?”

    “I managed to quit smoking no problem, so I don’t see the need for an age limit, let the market decide!”

    Getting the point yet, or do we have to keep finding ways to illustrate why “I’m a grown adult who doesn’t have gambling problems” is not actually all that relevant when discussing whether or not a product that exploits the same psychological mechanisms as gambling that are routinely sold to children should be regulated.

    Also, “it would hurt CCGs” isn’t an argument that’s likely to generate a lot of sympathy. Just about everyone I’ve ever met, spoken to, or read about who was into card games would dance a jaunty jig on the grave of the CCG business model.

    Personally, as someone who used to run a GAME store and so knows exactly how worthless even strict age-rated sales policies are in the face of apathetic parents, who understands something about the psychology of risk and how it evolves as a person ages, and who’s known people who’ve struggled with addiction – I don’t think your “too far” law goes far enough. Games that include pseudogambling should be regulated in the same ways as actual gambling, because they target the same psychology in the same way with the same goal(getting you to part with inadvisably large amounts of your money), and so the same rationale should be applied when it comes to the law.

    And if that means random lockboxes, and key-economies, and CCG-style physical products are made untenable and vanish entirely?

    GOOD

    • mitrovarr says:

      Yeah, I’m all for these laws. CCGs are gambling for kids. Always have been. Actually, they’re worse than lootboxes because you can sell cards where in-game items are usually limited to the account they were purchased on (which are usually, at least officially, non-transferable).

    • Relenzo says:

      Living Card Game Master Race!

      That can be a thing now. I’m pretty sure it’s cool to say that.

    • napoleonic says:

      I agree entirely. I am a “loot boxes are gambling” hipster: I was saying it about CCGs decades ago. I’ve long believed that they only got away with it because they were so niche and because it was mostly wealthy kids who got into it, so the biggest problem encountered was daddy taking away one of their credit cards. Now that loot boxes have gone mainstream and now that there are poor kids and families genuinely suffering because they’re locked into an addiction, it’s finally got on the radar – but that doesn’t mean that CCGs have been fine and dandy all these years.

    • Sian says:

      “The nature of loot crates in games is hotly debated now, but I do feel their impact is often exaggerated. When playing Middle Earth: Shadow of War, I found myself wondering why people even worried about buying them.”

      “I have fully functioning limbs and don’t find climbing stairs troublesome, what are all these wheelchairbound disabled people whinging about?”

      “I managed to quit smoking no problem, so I don’t see the need for an age limit, let the market decide!”

      Getting the point yet, or do we have to keep finding ways to illustrate why “I’m a grown adult who doesn’t have gambling problems” is not actually all that relevant when discussing whether or not a product that exploits the same psychological mechanisms as gambling that are routinely sold to children should be regulated.

      I’m generally with you, but you missed the mark a bit. The thing people were up in arms about concerning loot boxes in Shadow of War was that they were supposedly absolutely necessary to keep the game from becoming a mind-numbing grindfest in act 3. Dominic Tarason is saying that this wasn’t the case, not that loot boxes don’t exploit those weaknesses.

      • Dominic Tarason says:

        Yeah, this was what I was getting at. In the case of Dead Space 3, they tried to sell ‘premium’ guns to you, but by the time you completed even one normal difficulty playthrough you already had the pieces to craft a weapon that could kill god and use only a fraction of a piece of universal ammo doing so.

        In the case of Shadow of War, if the game is getting too hard to progress, you can literally change the difficulty setting at any time. Plus, the game is at its best when you’re losing occasionally.

    • Kittim says:

      Hallelujah!

      Your post wins! Hands down!

      Loot boxes, MMORPGs, Facebook, Twitter, Pokémon, Every Casino EVER etc. ALL EXPLOIT THE PSYCOLOGY OF ADDICTION.

      They ALL setup a reward system in the brain. Positive reinforcement and conditioning.

      Endorphins for all!

      It’s not like it’s an accident either, ALL of them know EXACTLY what they are doing. They aim to suck you in and suck you dry.

      EA really are a cancer, the problem is that they are now tethered to a leviathan of a tumour called Disney. Masters of exploiting the youngest of people.

      Ask any parent how many times their kid wants to watch crap like Pocahontas.

      Again and again and again.

      Children need to have fun. Computer games have done enough damage by being there in place of physical activities.

      Time we think about what we want for our kids.

      • khamul says:

        The thing I like about birdwatching is that you never know what you’re going to see. Some days you’ll wander around a reserve, and the only thing moving is a pigeon. Sometimes, a Marsh Harrier will turn up somewhere it really shouldn’t.

        I think what I’m saying is that I think the randomness of birdwatching hooks into the same reward mechanism as loot boxes in computer games. I took my kids birdwatching last weekend – does that make me a bad parent?

        I have a collection of Magic The Gathering cards from when I was a teenager. I love those cards: I spent quite a bit of money on them, but I got a lot back. But… I’m not other people. They weren’t a problem for me, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a problem.

        I don’t think the problem is exploiting the attraction of randomness per se – the problem is being a dick about it. The problem is that a lot of companies are being dicks about it.

        I wish we lived in a world where we could make that illegal – because, honestly, I do think if the law was ‘don’t be a dick’, a jury would be able to judge.

        • April March says:

          The question you should ask about MTG is: if you could have bought the cards you wanted, directly from Magic, instead of either spending a lot of money on the secondary market or creating a ramshackle deck out of a bunch of random packs you bought, would your experience have been improved? I find it hard to argue it wouldn’t.

          Your comparison to birdwatching is pointed, but ultimately fails, IMO. Birdwatching would be more fun if you could choose what birds appear. But that defeats the purpose – birds come and go following their own lives and learning how and why the move and how to spot them is part of the activity. Trading cards and lootboxes, on the other hand, have this randomness set upon them by their human creators. It’s OK to accept randomness; disappointment and failure from nature, because that’s how life works; it’s not OK to accept those from a corporation that artificially added those to their product to make their more compelling.

          • khamul says:

            Um, I’d say ‘no’: I think the randomness of MTG boosters did improve my experience. It forces you to be innovative, to think ‘this card is a rare, so it’s powerful, so… what am I missing? How do I use it?’. Coming up with cool ways to use the cards that fate dealt was a lot of the fun for me.

            I think that’s partly because there were so many cards that hunting for a specific one was clearly not viable – and also, every booster pack had a guaranteed distribution of rare, uncommon and common cards, and the cards indicated which was which, so you had some idea what you were getting.

            Also, with a bit of intelligence you could build absolutely lethal decks with just common cards, so the rares weren’t really needed.

            I’d say that MTG made a fairly solid effort not to be dicks about the whole thing. But, probably, there are people out there who spent hundreds and hundreds of pounds searching for a particular card, so…

    • upupup says:

      I’ve been rather disappointed by RPS’s ‘the truth is in the middle’ handling of something that meaningfully, intentionally and tangibly causes harm to those most vulnerable to it, in a way calculated to do so, through what is meant to be harmless fun. All in the name of profits without any gains for the users. Of all the going-ons within the industry, this is one of the vilest.

    • Massenstein says:

      Thanks, this was a good response. I wish it was more visible as the article really needs to have the flaws pointed out.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Well said.

      I’ve dealt with my own MTG addiction. Borrowed money to pay rent one month, in fact.

      I sold my entire collection the next day. Cold turkey. The misery and depression we’re worth it for the next three days. They got me back in a gym.

      I LOVE CCG Games. I utterly DESPISE CCG business models, loot crates…even random loot tables with 1% drop rates and “rarity” systems infuriate me now.

      Burn it all down. Good riddance.

  7. napoleonic says:

    CCGs should absolutely be regulated as gambling, and Panini stickers too. It’s outrageous that they’ve been allowed to get away with that con for so long.

  8. Rince says:

    If the more strict law pass, I’m absolutely fine with that.
    The gacha, lootboxes and similar things need to be eradicated from gaming.

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    syllopsium says:

    I remember Panini sticker albums and thinking at the time that they were also a scam. Even the less intelligent kids knew some players were more common than others, and that if you wanted to complete the album it meant a lot of swapping with friends, and buying more sticker packets.

    Fuck loot crates. Fuck free to play as well. After playing things like the mobile Plants vs Zombies, it’s abundantly clear that whilst you *can* win without paying, it’s far more frustrating and less enjoyable to do so..

    Give me a price where I purchase the game and have it, forever. If it means some people can’t afford the latest shiny so be it, it’s not as if the world is short of reasonably priced games. Who here doesn’t have a stupidly large backlog?

  10. malkav11 says:

    I very much want the randomized booster pack model of card game distribution to die in a fire (just like any other lootbox or equivalent), but I would worry about a ban possibly shutting down some genuinely excellent card game designs without allowing some time to transition to a fixed distribution model. In the digital space, I’d reaaaally hate to lose Hex, for example. I don’t actually own or play any collectible games on the tabletop at this point, but I imagine there still are a few worth saving.

  11. jrodman says:

    Have to agree with all the lootbox and CCG haters here. I find these practices predatory and fear they risk cannabalizing game design in harmful ways. I don’t think an age-barrier is a problem at all.

  12. Emanate says:

    As someone who works at a store that sells Magic the Gathering cards, and also runs lots of events, losing the ability to sell to anyone younger than 21 would drastically hurt our business.

    On the other hand, when we’re selling to anyone younger, or introducing them to the game, we try to make sure they know /what/ they’re getting into.

    I’m not saying it’s not gambling. It is, and there’s definitely some people I’ve seen who have an addiction. However, I think the majority of players know what they’re doing, and MtG is one of the few which has a vast secondary market, plus pre-built decks and the like, which means random boosters are not the only way to get cards.

    It’s a business, like anything, and I’m not defending their still sometimes shady practices, but that first proposed law would hurt much much more than just the CCG and video game companies themselves.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Stores buy boxes. They crack packs.

      Kids buy non-random singles. At least that’s how it worked years ago when I played. No right minded person bought random packs.

  13. Hyena Grin says:

    ‘Oh no, this law could mean bad news for CCGs!’

    Has it really never occurred to anyone that the whole ‘random booster pack’ mechanic in CCGs are, like.. maybe also bad? For the exact same reasons?

    It’s still fundamentally similar to a scratch card. You buy an object, and it may or may not contain something you want. If it doesn’t, guess what? You’re expected to try again. The scratch cards at least have the honesty to tell you ‘Sorry, please try again!’

    There’s basically no reason these companies couldn’t just be selling this stuff as DLC, except they’ve figured out that they can make more money by randomizing it, so that people have to buy the same DLC over and over before they get what they actually want. Making the average person pay More for Less, by exploiting flawed value judgments.

    And this would not work so well if it didn’t tap into the same psychology that gambling does.

    It’s exploitative. The argument isn’t about whether or not it’s exploitative, it’s about whether or not companies should be allowed to be exploitative.

    So to that end, screw CCGs. Just because they’ve been getting away with it for longer doesn’t make it better.

  14. JoeD2nd says:

    HEY! Just what everyone’s life needs!!! More government involvement!

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