Lootboxes have been under attack all over Europe, as countries seek to crack down on perceived “underaged gambling.” While lootboxes have become a staple of micro transactions, the crackdown applies pressure to ensure that consumers are treated with transparency and respect by companies. Recently, (to comply with French laws) CSGO have added an x-ray scanner for players to be able to see what they are getting in their lootbox before purchasing it; they have also disable the ability to buy and sell from other players. Rocket League have decided to end crates in their game and replace them with blueprints.
Impact On Young Audiences
The biggest reason why lootboxes have come under criticism due to recurring stories that pop up, where a young child spends thousands of real life dollars, on a game and the parent would angrily want their money back. Games nowadays are deisgned not to be fully playable upon release, but to be enhanced by a myriad of microtransactions. FIFA Ultimate team, Magic the Gathering: Arena, Rocket League and even shooters like Gears of War 5, all feature microtransactions that have some impact on gameplay.
If microtransactions (like in Fortnite) were merely cosmetic this would be a significantly smaller issue, but because of how important opening a Worlds 2019 orb in League of Legends could be to you getting a new champion or getting the import body that everyone is maining in Rocket League, microtransactions have quickly morphed into an unimpeded force for evil.
The issue most lawmakers have are that these are games designed and mostly played by a sub 18 years old audience. While adults may not have the best spending habits, they are ultimately spending the money they earn and are capable of understanding the consequences that buying 2800 Riot Points has, on both their PayPal account and their League account. Forcing developers to dissasociate the pleasure that loot openings has with random chance is a positive step forward, because it can create bad behavior patterns that can develop into gambling addictions for teens later in life.
Impact On Business
The major side effect this will have on games is varied. Games like League of Legends and Overwatch will more than likely be forced to change their randomized loot drops in order to comply, but games like CS:GO and Rocket League will see much deeper harms to their respective ecosystems. CS:GO for example has a huge, thriving trading marketplace where millions of real dollars (worth of skins) are traded weekly. Changes to how randomized loot crates, where you have the potential to unlock a super rare and super valuable knife or weapon skin, could impact the market negatively.
Psyonix has already started to talk about how their ecosystem will be impacted and spoiler alert it is bad for traders. Many fear that what makes these games have enduring value to consumers, will be erased because of new anti loot crate laws. As someone who has benefited positively from trading, I feel that there is definitely a safe place between what is legal and what would allow for ethical trading to be done, so that the economy of games that are 5+ years old are unaffected.
Impact On Esports
CS:GO has already seen a dip in viewership after Valve practically banned skin betting on esports and could see further dips in both player/viewerbase, if a staple country such as France were to cut into its business. Rainbow Six: Siege has steadily billed itself as a more strategic version of Counter-Strike and has slowly gained steam over the years, and everytime CS:GO loses out it only stands to gain.
Unfortunately for Valve, there is little it can actually do if it even cares. Steam literally prints money for Valve, so the health of their staple esports game has seemed to be less and less of a priority, as talks of franchising in CS:GO and declining playerbase/viewerbase for DOTA are symptoms of a lack of support from Valve HQ.
Overall, countries are doing right by players to try and fix a rather broken issue (microtransactions), but they should hire experts in the area of videogames and esports to ensure that they do not disturb the fragile sub ecosystems (esports viewership, game playerbases, trading marketplaces) that lootboxes feed into.
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