Yet another country has joined the loot box conversation, spurred on by the controversy surrounding practices originally planned for Star Wars: Battlefront II. This time, France is aiming to weigh in on the matter.
It seems like new developments are popping up on a daily basis concerning loot boxes. Most recently, French Senator Jérôme Durain has chimed in with a letter to the president of French gambling regulator, ARJEL. According to a recent Reddit translation, via Nerd Stash, the senator has offered a few thoughts on loot box practices, outlining all of the buzz surrounding Star Wars: Battlefront II as reference.
The letter opens with a bunch of jibba-jabba about how the video games industry is actually pretty-dang great, rather than being the breeding ground of violence some perceive it to be. From there, though, the letter turns to the idea of "providing consumer protection" in reference to loot boxes.
Durain states that obtaining cosmetic items via loot boxes seems to be a relatively accepted practice while potential "pay-to-win practices" are cause for concern. As noted above, Battlefront II is mentioned by name in this regard, followed shortly by a reference to gambling.
In brief, loot boxes in Battlefront II unlock everything from cosmetic items to perks and stat upgrades. In a competitive multiplayer game, that's pretty much frowned upon, as players are relying on the luck of the draw in order to boost their online performance. Once those loot boxes can be paid for with real-world cash, we've officially entered the realm of pay-to-win, as the players willing to spend the most money are earning themselves an added advantage over the competition.
Durain's letter specifically focuses on the fact that these types of loot boxes aren't super forthcoming with what you can expect to receive. Since you at least get "something" for your money, the U.S.'s ESRB recently determined that these types of practices were not gambling. Since then, however, Belgium, Hawaii and Australia have all made it clear that they plan to investigate loot box practices in games more carefully; which is to say "at all." Loot boxes have been around for a while, but Battlefront II stirred up a big enough hornet's nest to earn this additional attention.
Again, there's no telling if anything will actually come of all of this, but at least it has gotten people talking. We're not saying that loot boxes need to be removed entirely, just that there needs to be a degree of transparency in the transactions. It also wouldn't hurt if some ground rules were established concerning what should and should not be allowed to be included in these transactions. Most importantly, though, somebody should probably establish some sort of ground rules concerning how these loot boxes are used (or preferably not used) in games that target minors.