As such, there have been calls for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to classify them as gambling.
The most public controversy surround loot boxes are the possibility that its inclusion could diminish gameplay by introducing a harder, more time consuming grinding element or perhaps even offset the balance of multiplayer by introducing a pay-to-win effect.
Players have the option to buy more loot boxes in these games with real money, and the contents are random, so one could say that players are gambling on what they're going to get out of these loot boxes.
Dirk Bosmans, from European video game rating organisation PEGI echoes these statements to Eurogamer, saying "Loot crates are now not considered gambling: you always get something when you purchase them, even if it's not what you hoped for". These loot box systems have been used for years in games like Counter-Strike, Overwatch, Rocket League, and Team Fortress 2. We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you'll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you've had your eye on for a while. Still, seeing how the ESRB have both "Real Gambling" and "Simulated Gambling" as ratings categories, players were hoping that the organization would help set a precedent.
It's fast becoming the reality that loot boxes aren't all that it's cracked up to be.
Essentially, the rating boards can't really define what is and isn't gambling. Given their randomly generated nature, some like John "Total Biscuit" Bain believe the ESRB should officially qualify loot boxes as a form of gambling. "But other times you'll end up with a pack of cards you already have". Mobile games often use this model: they provide a free basic game but in order to have a better experience and unlock more items, the player must pay for boxes of items - a model known as "freemium" play. A system where it's possible to get nothing new or useful for your money sounds like gambling to me. This includes titles such as Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Star Wars: Battlefront II, Forza Motorsport 7, and Destiny 2.
The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017.
The ESRB told Kokatu that loot boxes are not gambling, because the player always received some sort of item of value.