Star Wars: Battlefront II’s recent loot box controversy has really kicked the hornet’s nest. The game’s integral use of loot boxes has caused Belgium and Hawaii to take notice, with the latter declaring that loot boxes are gambling and the former investigating publisher EA for “predatory practices.” French Senator Jérôme Durain now hopes to have his own country gives the concept a stern look.
Durain recently sent a letter to ARJEL, a French organization which regulates online gambling. In his letter Durain praises the advancement of gaming as a culture (specifically citing esports’ monetary rise), but warns that microstransactions, (and especially) loot boxes might prove a harmful to children. While he does not advocate for direct legislation, he does suggest having consumer protections and industry self-regulation in place, specifically citing Battlefront II’s use of loot boxes to help players become stronger by spending money, and wants to see more transparency in drop rates from loot boxes, since he believes they resemble gambling. Durain has also reached out to several other organizations regarding the topic, including SELL (France’s consumer advocacy group), and the SNJV (France’s games industry advocacy group).
This is on the heels of a number of news stories regarding Battlefront II have raised the topic of in-game microtransactions and loot boxes. Even after EA cut the cost to unlock hero characters by 75 percent, fans were still angry with the game and its publisher during a recent question-and-answer session on Reddit. The porminence of the issue (it was reported by mainstream news outlets such as the BBC) caused Disney to intervene to some degree.[Source: The Nerd Stash]
Whether or not these moves by Belgium, France, and more lead to consequential legislation limiting loot boxes in games, I’m hoping the scandal surrounding Battlefront II makes publishers weary of implementing loot boxes in future games. But perhaps none of this matters until publishers see players actually not purchase the games themselves or purchase microtransactions. Either way, this definitely feels like a turning point. Where we turn, however, is still up in the air.