How Epic Games is Making Fortnite’s Loot Boxes More Transparent
For more than two years now, loot boxes have remained a controversial talking point in the world of gaming. This prompted the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to issue a detailed report into loot boxes back in the autumn of 2017, while authorities in Belgium and Holland have outlawed the publication of these virtual containers in console games.
Ultimately, the UKGC ruled that loot boxes did not fit its core definition of gambling, primarily because prizes cannot be cashed out and are only available for use in the games in which they’re won. However, it has continued to monitor the growing loot box market amid a lack of stringent age verification measures and the continued blurring of the lines between gaming and real money wagering.
With no official regulatory measures currently in place for loot boxes, it’s little wonder that individual developers like have taken a more proactive approach to safeguarding their players best interests. We’ll explore this further below, while asking what this means for loot boxes and responsible gaming in the UK
How Epic Games are Making Loot Boxes More Transparent
The development team that has blazed a trail in this respect is Epic Games, as mentioned by Muhammad Gregory from casinoreviews.co.uk at the end of January.
Using it’s headline hit Fortnite as a target, the group has pledged to remove the standard blind loot box setting and ensure that all future containers are completely transparent.
Starting with the recent v7.30 update, any loot box or “llama” available in the V-bucks store will showcase all of its contents to players without requiring them to make a purchase. This enables players to make an informed decision when browsing loot boxes, removing the element of chance and tackling a key concern of gambling regulators in the process.
By making the contents of these randomly distributed loot boxes visible to players, developers are also minimising the temptation to trade these or sell them for real money through participating websites.
Ultimately, the decision of Epic Games also ensures that players can achieve true value for money when purchasing a loot box with credit or real money, as they’ll be able to distinguish whether a container holds standard items like bullets or valuable alternatives such as damage traps.
Why have Epic Games Take this Decision?
The decision of Epic Games to make its Fortnite loot boxes transparent is a seminal one in the gaming industry, as it sets a progressive standard for self-regulation and will surely compel other developers to follow suit.
Otherwise, Epic Games may well steal a march on their rivals, by establishing themselves as genuine ambassadors for responsible gaming in a wild and largely unregulated space. This not only recognises a wider trend in the gaming and gambling industries, but it also takes into account the continued blurring of the lines between these two vast entities.
Remember, the UKGC made responsible gambling and the safeguarding of vulnerable players one of its core strategic objectives through 2021. This, along with the introduction of increasingly stringent regulations and sanctions for non-compliant brands, has triggered a change in attitude among gambling operators, with GVC one of the first to introduce new social responsibility measures for the future.
Barclay’s and the UK government have also introduced measures to drive responsible gambling, and this has undoubtedly had a knock-on effect on the console and mobile gaming sectors.
This is particularly relevant in an age where game developers have embraced a freemium business model and leveraged microtransactions to create new revenue streams, making real-money wagering increasingly prominent in several video game titles.
What Does this Mean for Loot Boxes in the Future?
While this is undoubtedly a positive step for Epic Games and responsible gaming in the UK, the question that remains is what does the move mean for loot boxes?
In the short-term, the move may well relieve some of the scrutiny placed on loot boxes, in much the same way that the decision of market leading bookmakers to introduce a blanket ban on television advertising has appeased gambling regulators.
In the longer-term, it also tackles one of the main issues at the heart of the uncertainty surrounding loot boxes, namely the lack of uniform regulation and the widespread trading of containers that do not include the requisite items. Previously, this created clear concerns that underage gamers could effectively participate in a form of real-money wagering, particularly without the presence of any stringent age verification measures.
With this in mind, Epic Games have created a blueprint for the future of loot boxes and begun to establish themselves as genuine ambassadors for responsible gaming. If others follow suit (as they’re likely to do), this will create a scenario where loot boxes can be utilised safely and effectively across an array of console games.
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