© Blizzard Entertainment
“Diablo Immortal”, the free smartphone offshoot of the cult computer game, will be released today Diablo. However, not in the Netherlands and Belgium, because the business model of the game, the so-called loot boxes, is forbidden here. The reason: you are gambling too similar, according to case law.
Virtual surprise for real money
Loot boxes (in German: loot boxes) are an essential part of more and more games on computers, consoles and mobile phones. Also in FIFA, the world’s best-selling video game every year, they exist. They are like virtual surprise packages, filled with items that players can use to enhance their character visually or gain an in-game advantage. “pay to win” That’s what it’s called in technical jargon, because the loot boxes are usually purchased with real money. If the game is discontinued by the provider, money spent on virtual items and benefits will be lost.
What a box contains is determined by chance. Players do not know in advance whether the items inside are valuable or useless. If a game is based entirely on such a lottery mechanism, it is of a “Gacha Game” the speech. The term is based on the in Japan popular Gashapon vending machines – a toy dispenser that spits out any plastic toy for a small fee.
High potential for addiction
Similar to the Japanese toy dispenser, video game developers also use the random principle to encourage users to spend money. With the In-Game Purchases of loot boxes, the manufacturers have created an additional source of income that is particularly lucrative. $15 billion the industry earned with this virtual raffle in 2020.
In doing so, they use questionable practices. The manufacturers are setting up visual and acoustic stimuli, which trigger the release of adrenaline and endorphins in the body – this is known from slot machines. In addition, in the video game usually has to real money be exchanged for a virtual currency to purchase loot boxes. Similar to casino chips, players quickly lose track of their spending.
Probabilities of winning are also often misleadingly reported, and last but not least the aggressive marketing used to advertise in-game purchases encourages purchases.
loot box: A virtual object in video games that contains a random collection of specific items. They are purchased with real money or in-game currency, but can also be earned by completing quests.
In-game purchase: Purchases made during a game.
Pay to Win Game: Refers to games in which users can gain advantages over others by purchasing certain virtual items.
Gacha Game: Is designed from the ground up in such a way that players have to buy loot boxes in order to pass levels or to be able to keep up with other participants.
Call for regulations in Austria
Especially for children and young people loot boxes create a high risk of addiction, as studies confirm. The call for regulations like those in Belgium and the Netherlands is therefore getting louder and louder.
There is currently no ban in Austria. It is unclear whether loot boxes are even considered games of chance under Austrian law. According to lawyer Oliver Peschel, the doctrines would differ here. “We believe that there is no legal difference between a loot box and a slot machine. Even with loot boxes, you quickly lose track of your expenses and fall into a spiral of addiction,” the lawyer notes. “However, there is still no supreme court model case that confirms this.”
If there were case law, game manufacturers who do not have a gaming license (i.e. the vast majority) could be held accountable. Players could you ask for money back. According to Peschel, that would be tantamount to regulation by the authorities.
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