‘Surprise Mechanics’ back in the crosshairs
Gaming’s most controversial economy, the Loot Box and its random-related brethren, are once again the target of European councils, who are calling for new legislation for the controversial in-game purchase mechanic.
This latest venture follows the publishing of a new report titled “Insert Coin,” penned by The Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) which looks into the short-and-long-term impact caused by so-called “Surprise Mechanics” on the health, welfare, and wallets of video game players. The report targets the predatory and compulsive nature exhibited by the loot box concept, noting that the mechanic “exploits cognitive or behavioral biases to incentivize spending.” The report calls out certain examples by name, including EA’s FIFA franchise and mobile title Raid: Shadow Legends.
Following the report’s publication, over 20 consumer groups from 18 European countries have partied together to call for immediate and severe legislation against all forms of loot box/gacha gaming and the publishers who chose to include it in their titles. While the report lists several potential compromises — such as banning misleading in-game currency, further declaring prize odds, and removing loot boxes from all games targeting minors — the council also suggests simply banning paid loot boxes altogether.
Loot boxes, gacha, and other “surprise mechanics” have remained both a lucrative and highly controversial part of gaming for many years now. While there have been repeated instances of investigations, lawsuits, and governmental interference into the application of in-game purchases, there is — staggeringly — yet to be definitive law on what a loot box is/isn’t, and how they can be globally instigated (or not) in video games the world over. In the meantime, publishers such as Activision Blizzard, EA, and myriad mobile game makers have been making money hand-over-fist and thus will be unlikely to pull the plug anytime soon.