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The Entertainment Software Rating Board has weighed in on the recent kerfuffle surrounding loot boxes to say that, as far as it is concerned, the practice of selling random chance loot boxes within a game does not equate to gambling.
The rating board explained its reasoning in a statement given to Kotaku, effectively saying that random chance loot boxes as used in games like Overwatch and Shadow of War don’t constitute digital gambling since players are guaranteed to receive in-game content for every purchase.
The ESRB’s statement is, on its own, an interesting development in the on-going loot box debate, but the decision holds some extra weight for developers seeking an ESRB rating.
If a game is deemed to feature actual gambling, the organization automatically slaps an Adults Only rating on the box which can disqualify it from being sold at some major retailers or being streamed on Twitch.
“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling. While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want),” an ESRB representative told Kotaku. “We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”