Microtransactions in gaming aren’t anything new. They’ve been around for many years now to varying degrees. From smaller mobile titles like Puzzles & Dragons to major AAA titles like Overwatch, they’ve been around and ingrained in our culture for a while. But, it was the release of Star Wars Battlefront II by EA and DICE that made the whole world really pay attention to it. For because of that game, and how the microtransactions were used, many likened things like Loot Boxes to gambling.
And this wasn’t just a small country overseas, this was many major countries including the US, UK, Bulgaria, and more. Each is seriously trying to answer the question of whether it’s gambling to use such a mechanic. Well, now, we have at least one opinion from the country of New Zealand. For Trish Millward, of the Gambling Compliance office for New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs, has stated that “they do not think that loot boxes meet the legal definition of gambling under New Zealand’s Gambling Act 2003.”
Furthermore, she stated that the intent of gambling, true gambling, is to put something in in an attempt to get money out. Whereas Loot Boxes and other similar microtransactions are about trying to get something in the game to make the gaming experience better. So thus, it cannot meet the definition of gambling, even though what you receive in Loot Boxes are determined by chance.
It’s an interesting argument, and one that has been made by certain other entertainment and gambling agencies. Yet, these statements have come from regulators of certain commissions, the lawmakers themselves have not weighed in on this issue as of yet.
Furthermore, this could cause some to redefine what they define as “gambling”, for while kids and players aren’t technically “gaining” anything outside of the game, they’re still losing money in the hopes of getting something they want.