By Joe Harker
Loot boxes are parts of video games where players can purchase extra content for a price, or perhaps more accurately purchase the chance to unlock extra content for a price.
While downloadable content has been part of gaming for years the player knows what they are purchasing with DLC, whereas loot boxes provide a random selection of content.
More expensive boxes have a higher chance of providing better content, but the uncertain nature of the reward has seen accusations of gambling leveled at game developers.
A report from the House of Commons' Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport into the immersive and addictive nature of technologies was finally published.
It identified loot boxes as "not innocent toys but de facto gambling" as the games and their payment mechanics give players the same feelings as games of chance.
Some MPs have argued that loot boxes and the random nature of the rewards they provide ought to be regulated in a similar way as fruit machines.
There are the horror stories of children using their parents credit cards to spend a fortune on what may end up being very little of value in the end, but the real danger is introducing them to the rush of gambling from a young age.
The report notes one of the main reason loot boxes have escaped regulation is because they have developed quickly, moving faster than legislation can.
The Counter Claim:
However, the Entertainment Software Association has said they "strongly disagree" with the report, saying they take the issue seriously but don't like what the UK has said on the matter.
They noted that other countries came to a very different conclusion on the subject of loot boxes.
The ESA represents major game publishers like Blizzard, Bethesda, Electronic Arts and Take-Two and as such are always likely to take the side of companies putting loot boxes in their games.
The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment said it was "pleased the Committee acknowledges that the majority of people play video games in a positive, safe and responsible way", praising support for efforts to increase "digital literacy".
Loot boxes have already been banned in some countries, with Belgium noting that gamers approved of making them illegal and the BBC reporting that such a view is commonly held in other countries.
Gamers don't like having to spend more money on a product they already bought for full price. People are buying what they expect to be the full advertised product, only to learn there are things missing that they have to buy either through early DLC or with loot boxes.
Nobody wants to pay for an in-game slot machine to play all of what they've bought. Gamers don't see it as a fun mechanic, rather as something to be endured. It's particularly egregious in situations where not buying loot boxes gives the players who do a competitive advantage.
If the best content is stuck behind a paywall or loot boxes when someone already bought what they believed to be the full product then they are unlikely to be happy with their purchase. Putting children who don't fully understand money in this situation can cause even more problems.