According to Apple’s new guidelines, Apps offering loot boxes or mechanisms providing randomised virtual prizes must disclose the exact odds of receiving each item prior to the purchase. Basically, this means the players will know ahead of time what their chances are of landing the item they want. The change will affect a massive number of gaming apps on the Apple App Store including many popular free-play games.
The Gambling Debate
There has been a lot of controversy over the past 12 months about the risks of loot box purchases in modern video games. Loot crates are digital treasure chests that offer in-game items such as outfits, weapons or power-ups. While some crates are issued as a reward for completed tasks, more and more games are giving players the opportunity to buy crates for real cash. The problem is that players do not know what is in the box until it has been bought. The rewards are entirely random which is why it is seen as a form of gambling.
The purchase of crates has been likened to the spinning of a slot machine with fears that players and children can become addicted to the purchase of more and more crates. The counter argument is that loot boxes offer a reward on every purchase unlike casino games. The argument came to the fore with the release of the Star Wars: Battlefront video game. Apple entered into the debate announcing that it will require all developers to publish their loot box odds.
Making an Informed Decision
According to Apple, apps that do not comply with their new policy will be pulled from the App Store and miss out of millions of potential customers. For the first time, players will be able to see first-hand exactly what their chances are of receiving the outcome they want. This will help them make informed decisions about which crates to buy. Assessing the value of the crate beforehand will mean players can choose which crates to sink their virtual or real cash into.
On the other side of the coin, publishing the odds of loot crates will put game developers at a disadvantage. The mere fact that odds are displayed is an acknowledgment of a gambling aspect and will most certainly scare off many players in both the short and the long run.
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