French senator says Star Wars Battlefront 2 loot boxes are uncomfortably close to gambling

By Marshall Lemon, Saturday, 25 November 2017 15:22 GMT

Yet another government official is comparing Battlefront 2’s loot boxes to gambling.

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Government officials have offered a range of opinions on loot boxes since Star Wars Battlefront 2 launched – although none of them are especially kind. The UK Gambling Commission recently stated that while loot boxes aren’t legally gambling, they do have concerns, while the State of Hawaii straight-up called them predatory practices. These worries are now echoed by French Senator Jérôme Durain, as expressed in an open letter to a gambling regulation organization.

Durain’s letter to ARJEL, translated here, does start on a positive note. He specifically points to the potential of games as e-Sports, and the uplifting effect of games on the economy. By the same token, Durain is deeply concerned about loot boxes and microtransactions – calling out Battlefront 2 by name – considering such practices have no regulation.

“Today, loot boxes seem to me to require special attention from the public authorities. Many players and specialized observers (see the article devoted to the subject in the magazine Canard PC) question the deleterious effects of the spread of these micro-transactions in the world of video games,” Durain writes. “While I do not think it is necessary at this stage to put in place specific legislation, I wonder about the desirability of providing consumer protection in this area. The use of loot boxes conferring cosmetic additions to the games seems well-accepted by the public. The development of so-called pay-to-win practices is more contentious, as shown by the recent controversy over the game Star Wars Battlefront 2. Quite aside from the acceptance of the practice, some observers point to a convergence of the video game world and practices specific to gambling.

“Transparency is not common with regard to statistics governing loot boxes, even though good practices sometimes exist,” Durain continues. “China has decided in favour of a transparency of win ratios. Some of our European neighbours (the United Kingdom and Belgium in particular) are looking into the matter through their regulatory authorities. So we see that the question is not unique to France. Does ARJEL have the infrastructure necessary for a general census of win ratios for micro transactions?”

The letter is worth reading in full, as Durain does seem well-versed in the nuances of both the video game industry and the recent loot box controversy. Yet it’s abundantly clear that loot boxes are not something governments will turn a blind eye to any longer.

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