In early June, the consumer defense association UFC-Que Choisir and 19 of its European counterparts warned of the dangers of lootboxes, these surprise loot boxes in video games that players can buy online. They criticize things that encourage spending “Significant amount of money by exploiting the weaknesses of their young audience”especially “through aggressive marketing” and in “Many prejudices of thinking”. According to them, minors represent a vulnerable public, who are likely to develop a form of profit -attracting addiction and have no idea of the concrete amount of money spent on a game.
coincidence on the calendar, Diablo Immortal, was released for free on mobile and PC on June 2, since players were outraged. In question: the in-app purchases, which are full of the game, increase your chances of getting the best weapon in the game when you eliminate opponents. But investing is not a guarantee because things appear to be random. Videographer Bellular calculates that you need to spend about 110,000 dollars on the game to optimize a character to the maximum.
Banned in Belgium and the Netherlands
Players have been complaining about this kind of system for a few years now, encouraging them to spend astronomical amounts with no guarantee of results. In 2020, two French lawyers sued Electronic Arts, FIFA’s publisher. The game offers to purchase packs, which randomly contain football cards, to build your team and thus face other players. Criticized by lawyers, among other things, a “banned lottery” accessible to minors and “deceptive marketing techniques”.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, lootboxes have been banned from sale since 2018 to protect the consumer and especially. “mental health in children”. but in France little progress is the question. Former president of the online gaming regulatory authority (Arjel, since being replaced by the National Stakes Agency, the ANJ), Charles Coppolani, was very concerned in 2017 about the risks “very close to those who describe gambling addiction”, but no action has been taken since. Because in order to qualify something as a game of chance, it is necessary to combine three behaviors, the ANJ recalls, citing the Internal Security Code: a financial sacrifice (the purchase of a box), a public offer (the boxes are free to access) and the expectation of a profit. However, this last point has not been fulfilled.
“Profit has to have a legacy of value, that is, it enriches you “, details in world Frédéric Guerchoun, legal director of the ANJ. While you can, for example, use an amount won at the casino to buy yourself a new car, it is not (yet) possible to do the same thing thanks to outfits and virtual items. The Steam online video game platform allows players to resell their items earned through lootboxes to other users through their internal marketplace, but the money earned remains in a closed loop: it cannot be transferred to the bank account. to the user and only allowed him. to purchase other items on the platform, such as the video game of his choice.
Should the law be changed to better cover lootboxes? It is not necessary, according to the ANJ, according to which lootboxes do not correspond to the very spirit of the games of the moment, which we play. “the idea that you can be rich”. But also because “Consumer law is already rich in legal instruments or tools that allow us to address the key concerns we have observed”.
“Misleading possibility of winning”
The Consumer Code thus considers it misleading for a company to put forward wrong. “essential qualities of good or service”especially “its properties and the results expected from its use”. And at this point the UFC-Que Choisir accusations, criticizing “Misleading possibility of winning”. When China in 2017 asked publishers to show it clearly, many titles fell in line. But these numbers remain unclear, as FIFA has, for some of the packages on offer, content to raise a possibility “less than 1%” to get the most profit. However, the chances of winning the jackpot are very different depending on whether it is 0.9% or 0.001%.
Asked in 2019 by Senator Les Républicains Arnaud Bazin, the Ministry of Economy and Finance recognized that lootboxes “raise the question of information among consumers”, especially than “The price shown on the initial acquisition of the game is very far from the cost that the player will ultimately bear”. But there is no need to enact further legislation, according to Bercy, the current texts authorizing the Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) “impose if necessary any defects that may be identified in the market at the time of inspection.” The reason why nothing has changed since, the debate is recurring now that there are fears similar to 2017.
On their side, publishers promote self-regulation, such as that done by PEGI, the European classification that indicates the minimum age recommended for a video game. In 2020, the talk “In-app purchases: include random content” thus showing the covers. With the simple amount of information, it does not prevent minors from accessing it. Game publishers are flirting with the limits of a cunning legal framework, and for good reason: thanks to lootboxes, they’ll get more than 15 billion dollars by 2020, according to research firm Juniper Research , or nearly 10% of their turnover.