Apple has changed the rules around how games on its app store use loot boxes.
These boxes are random rewards for gameplay and often give players benefits and power-ups that can be used in games.
In a change to its developer guidelines,
Apple said games must now let players know the odds of getting particular items in the boxes. In the updated guidelines, Apple said any in-game mechanism that rewards players with randomised virtual items must list the odds of receiving each type of
item. In addition, it said, customers must be informed of these odds before they buy the boxes or rewards.
Many games offer extras to players that can change the appearance of the game, introduce new characters or bestow power-ups that help people
as they play. Some titles let people buy loot boxes with in-game funds they generate by playing or by spending real money to purchase the game's virtual cash.
Hawaii State Representative Sean Quinlan has advocated for self-regulation of loot boxes by the video game industry whilst also suggesting that such games should carry a 21+ age rating.
He said that ultimately, it's best for the industry to
self-police. The ideal solution would be for the game industry to stop having gambling or gambling-like mechanics in games that are marketed to kids... BUT ... he believes games makers should be held accountable. The ESRB would need to
enforce higher-grade ratings and other labels to distinguish games that rely on predatory monetization. As an example, he said that the ESRB could say that if a game has loot crates, it gets a 21-plus rating.
The Entertainment Software Association
is proving resistant, however. Their response ran along the same lines as many publishers, asserting that loot boxes are a voluntary feature and that the gamer makes the decision in regards to their purchase .
Australia's advert censor has dismissed a swath of complaints about supposedly offensive Sportsbet adverts that some felt denigrated Christians.
A Sportsbet advertising campaign which used the word Puntmas to describe the racing season has been
cleared by the Advertising Standards Bureau following complaints of blasphemy.
The ads feature four men at the racetrack, humming and singing Christmas carols, with a voiceover promoting a new feature of the betting app which allows users to
cancel their bets. They end with an appearance from former sprinter Ben Johnson who featured in an earlier ad for the bookmaker which was banned for making light of drug use .
The Advertising Standards Board received a number of complaints, many
of which took issue with the association of Christmas and gambling. For them to use it in a gambling ad reaches new lows in the gambling industry, one complaint read.
Regrettably, we live in an era where it has become acceptable to denigrate our
Christian heritage, another said. This advertisement deliberately tries to associate gambling with the spirit of Christmas. No doubt gambling will ruin Christmas for many families this year. I find this ad to be in very poor taste.
One person said
it was beyond offensive to associate betting with one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, while another said they especially don't want my children to recognise the tune and start to relate Christmas and gambling.
In its response,
Sportsbet rejected that the ads in any way discriminated against or vilified any section of the community on account of religion.
The Advertising Standards Board sided with Sportsbet, dismissing the complaints. In its determination, it said many
members of the community consider Christmas as a cultural holiday more so than a religious one. [Though] Christmas has significant meaning to some, the use of 'Puntmas' in the context of a promotion of a gambling product may be considered tasteless
but such a connection of words does not denigrate Christianity or Christians, the ASB said.
Loot boxes are a revenue creating facility where gamers are assisted in their quests by the real money purchase of loot boxes that contain a random collections of goodies that help game progress. loot boxes are found in many commercially successful
games, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Paragon, Gears of War 4, and FIFA 17.
The pros and cons of this method of revenue raising has been passionately debated in games forums and teh
debate seems to have widened out to more regulatory spheres.
Last week the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who rate games for North America declared that loot boxes, despite their inherent randomness, do not constitute a form of
gambling. The reason, simply put, is that while you don't know what you're going to get out of them, you know you're going to get something -- unlike a lottery ticket, say, where the great likelihood is that your money is just going up in smoke.
The same opinion is reflected by PEGI who rate games for Europe. PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told Wccftech:
In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB. The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling, That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling
content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.
And for solidarity the UK games trade group Ukie agreed. Dr. Jo Twist of Ukie said
Loot boxes are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant UK regulations. The
games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with UK law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social
Not everyone agrees though, a British parliamentarian gave a little push to the UK government by submitting the questions:
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media
and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and
Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in
It seems that the Isle of Mann already sees loot boxes as being liable to gambling controls.
Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded in a statement, pointing out that definitions and
protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year. She said:
Where items obtained in a computer game can be
traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission
uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.
So for the moment it seems that for the moment the status quo will be maintained, but in this age of cotton wool and snowflakes, I wouldn't bet on it.
A TV ad for StarWins.com, seen on 17 January 2017, began with a shot of two men standing at a bar in a pub next to a table where a man and a woman were chatting to each other. One of the men at the bar watched a woman as she walked past before a
voice-over stated, Allow me to introduce you to Star Wins and one of the men pulled out his mobile phone and swiped the screen. The men were transported to a casino. The camera panned from a woman in a sequined dress dancing on a stage to the men
as they walked down a flight of stairs. As they reached the floor of the casino the voice-over stated, For you card sharks we've got real female croupiers who can handle that as a woman wearing a sequined gold dress walked between them. The men
watched her as she walked towards and past them and turned to look behind them to continue watching her as she walked to join the other dancers on stage. The men smiled at each other and continued further into the casino. The voice-over stated, Or if
roulette is your thing, we'll put you in a spin 24/7 as the two men walked past a table where two female croupiers wearing tight, low-cut dresses stood with two female and one male gambler. The croupiers watched the men closely as they walked past.
The men then approached a roulette table where a female croupier stood, along with a group of mainly female gamblers. One of the men flipped a chip onto the table while staring intently at the croupier. The voice-over continued, You'll be surprised
where it can take you. Star Wins. Get in the game as the men were shown throwing chips into the air in celebration, surrounded by the group of women. A final shot showed them celebrating back at the bar in the pub. The couple at the table next to the
bar turned to smile at them.
1. One complainant, who felt the ad was sexist and objectified women, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
2. The ASA challenged whether the ad suggested that gambling could
enhance personal qualities, and linked gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.
ASA Assessment: Complaint upheld
The ASA noted that all
the casino employees seen in the ad were women and that the majority of the people present in the casino were women. While in the casino the men only interacted with each other or with women (rather than other men), and when interacting with women in
each case either the men or the women gave each other intense looks which suggested they were appraising them physically. We considered the ad put particular visual emphasis both on the generally high proportion of women in the casino and on the physical
attractiveness of the female casino employees to the two male protagonists.
We considered that the combination of those visual emphases with the voice-over specifically highlighting that Daily Star Wins (which provided only online
casino services) employed real female croupiers, served to depict the presence of physically attractive women as the key attraction of Daily Star Wins. We considered the ad therefore objectified women, and concluded it was likely to cause serious
or widespread offence on that basis.
When the men were initially shown in the pub the only person who paid attention to them was the barman serving their drinks. We noted that in contrast,
in the casino they exchanged intense looks with the female casino employees, a group of people (mainly consisting of women) began to gather around them as they approached the roulette table, and that group had grown when they were shown winning and
celebrating. We considered that all those aspects of the ad together created an impression that the men's interest in and eventual success at gambling had gained them recognition and admiration, and made them more popular and attractive to women. We
concluded the ad therefore suggested that gambling could enhance personal qualities, and that it linked gambling to seduction and enhanced attractiveness.
The ad must not appear again in its
current form. We told Bear Group Ltd t/a Daily Star Wins to ensure their ads did not cause serious or widespread offence through the depiction of or objectification of women. We also told them to ensure their ads did not suggest that gambling could
enhance personal qualities, or link gambling to seduction or enhanced attractiveness.