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Νέα έρευνα για τη σύνδεση μεταξύ τζόγου και lootboxes

Καιρό τώρα το Υπουργείο Περιβάλλοντος και Τηλεπικοινωνιών της Αυστραλίας ερευνά την πιθανή σύνδεση μεταξύ τζόγου και των γνωστών Lootboxes που περιέχουν πολλά από τα μοντέρνα παιχνίδια.

Πρόκειται για πακέτα που αγοράζονται μέσα από το εκάστοτε παιχνίδι σχεδόν πάντα με χρήση πιστωτικής κάρτας και συνεπώς κανονικό χρήμα. Ο χρήστης μαθαίνει το περιεχόμενο -εικαστικό ή λειτουργικό για το παιχνίδι- μόνο μετά την αγορά του. Τις περισσότερες φορές η εκδότρια εταιρία δεν αναφέρει τις πιθανότητες που έχει κάθε αντικείμενο να “ανοίξει”.

Μερικά από αυτά τα παιχνίδια είναι τα FIFA, NBA 2K, Overwatch, Rainbow Six Siege, Forza, Destiny, Battlefield, Battlefront, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Hearthstone, Smite, Paladins, Dota 2 και Counter Strike.

Μετά από δύο μήνες έρευνας, λοιπόν, εκδόθηκε η παρακάτω έρευνα. Να σημειωθεί πως το δείγμα ήταν αρκετά μεγάλο, 7.422 περιπτώσεις. Συνοψίζοντας τα αποτελέσματα, η έρευνα αποφάνθηκε πως υπάρχει άμεση σύνδεση τζόγου και πακέτων. Πιο συγκεκριμένα, καταλήγει στο ότι όχι μόνο υπάρχει σύνδεση μα η ύπαρξη των πακέτων παρακινεί τον παίκτη στα επόμενα επίπεδα τζόγου. Ακόμα παραπέρα, η έρευνα δείχνει πως η εκάστοτε εταιρία χρησιμοποιεί τα πιθανά προβλήματα και εθισμούς των παικτών στα τυχερά παιχνίδια ώστε να τραβήξει όσο το δυνατόν περισσότερα χρήματα από αυτούς. Ακολουθεί ατόφιο το κείμενο των αποτελεσμάτων.

I. The outcome of the investigation

The outcome of the investigation is summarized as follows:

+ Our large-scale study (n=7,422) found important links between loot box spending and problem gambling. The more severe gamers’ problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes.

+ These results strongly support claims that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling.

+ These results also suggest that there is a serious risk for loot boxes to cause gambling-related harm. More specifically, they suggest that either:

– Loot boxes act as a gateway to problem gambling amongst gamers.

– Loot boxes provide games companies with an unregulated way of exploiting gambling disorders amongst their customers.

+ Given the relationship between loot box use and problem gambling outlined above, we recommend that

– Games containing loot boxes carry parental advisories

– Games containing loot boxes carry descriptors that indicate the presence of in-game gambling content.

– Serious consideration is given to restricting games that contain loot boxes to players of legal gambling age

The following statement should also be mentioned:

Industry statements typically disassociate loot boxes from gambling. They instead highlight similarities between loot boxes and harmless products like trading cards or Kinder Surprise eggs. As the ESRC put it: “we do not consider loot boxes to be gambling … loot boxes are more comparable to baseball cards, where there is an element of surprise and you always get something.”.

By contrast, researchers argue that loot boxes share so many formal similarities with other forms of gambling that they meet the ‘psychological criteria’ to be considered gambling themselves. These researchers further suggest that buying loot boxes may therefore lead to problem gambling amongst gamers.

These results support the position of academics who claim that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling. Spending large amounts of money on loot boxes was associated with problematic levels of spending on other forms of gambling. This is what one would expect if loot boxes psychologically constituted a form of gambling. It is not what one would expect if loot boxes were, instead, psychologically comparable to baseball cards.

The argument that loot box are similar to trading cards and Kinder surprise eggs is one of the main arguments used by the video gaming industry in order to point out that loot boxes are not gambling. However, the argument does not fly in many jurisdictions. It was recently rejected by the Dutch and French gambling regulator (despite the latter came to the conclusion that loot boxes – while allegedly problematic – legally do not qualify as gambling in France). In Germany, on the other hand, several regulators used the argument to support their position that loot boxes are not gambling.

II. Additional comments

Loot boxes and similar mechanisms have been debated in Australia for quite a while already (starting with the rise of virtual casino games and social games around 2010 and thus way before the 2017/2018 loot box debate). The current study does not involve a legal assessment of loot boxes under Australian gambling laws. We carried out two surveys on the legal aspects of loot boxes in Australia. Both came to the conclusion that enforcement action from a gambling law perspective is currently unlikely although not completely excluded. The most relevant Australian gambling law is the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (cth). The objective of this legislation is to prevent “problem gambling” within Australia and it is primarily targeted at traditional gambling activities, i.e. bets or plays made with the intention of winning money that can be “cashed out”. As players are typically not able to “cash out” the items they receive from loot boxes, the prevailing opinion in Australia deems the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (cth) not to be applicable. However, like in many countries, the situation is unclear in terms of loot boxes mechanisms which technically allow off-platform trading and thus a cash out through the backdoor (often by violating the game publisher’s EULA). In the past there has been some controversy even amongst Australian gambling regulators whether or not loot boxes or similar mechanisms can technically fall under applicable gambling laws. Nevertheless, no enforcement action took place so far. It should also be noted that there have been several attempts over the last years to amend the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (cth) to extent its application to games which grant virtual items as prizes. So far all attempts failed. Without such an amendment of the current Australian gambling laws, enforcement action in terms of loot boxes is currently unlikely.

Dr David Zendle και Dr Paul Cairns

Λευτέρης Μάλλιος

Avid LoL gamer, καμμένος του Dark Souls και εθισμένος στο streaming παιχνιδιών στο Twitch