And it makes sense. You can buy, using real money, a virtual ticket for a virtual item. Then that virtual item can in turn often be sold to others for real money. In other words, players can participate by gambling real money in return for less or more real money.
In short, it is gambling. Not all countries make gambling illegal, but those who do, should treat loot boxes the same. And virtually all countries make gambling illegal for minors, and there's currently no working mechanism in play for 15 year olds not to be able to play these games.
Currently in the Netherlands it's required for the proceeds of loot boxes to be tradeable in the real world, giving them economic value, for it to be considered gambling. If it's purely virtual, it's not gambling but just part of the game. (you can question this of course.) The problem is that it didn't matter for the Dutch government whether the items were traded on external platforms (which are often in violation of the games EULA itself), or on a platform of the game itself.
What would help stay legit is for the games to prevent loot box items from being traded between characters at all.
Here's the weird thing though. My entire childhood was filled with opaque plastic packs of cards, pokemon cards, football cards etc. You didn't know which 5 cards were in there. The cards were semi-randomly distributed in the packs in the factory, just like these loot boxes are semi-randomly generated by an algorithm. And you'd pay, not knowing what you'd get. And indeed, sometimes you paid $10 for a pack with a rare pokemon you could sell for $100. That was gambling too under this definition.
Is that so weird? I came to the conclusion that industry was gambling when I was a kid. I saw my friends spend their allowance on those packs of cards, open them up, then become disappointed because they only received "trash". Yet again and again they'd do it. It seemed totally irrational to me.
It lasted a week before other parents were incredibly annoyed by this. Aaaaand they kept paying a lot of euros to buy real ones.
This has become a more pronounced issue as realistic counterfeits of Magic: The Gathering cards that are no longer in print and in some cases cost more than a car are starting to appear on the market. They can be detected by a trained eye, but to they look "close enough" to a casual or even sharp observer. While the people producing the cards and discussing their quality often say "these cards are intended for use in decks but not to trade or sale as if they were real cards", some in the wider Magic: The Gathering community feel very strongly that legal action should be taken against the producers, sellers, and in some cases, even the users of these cards.
On a practical side, using non-genuine, non-WotC produced cards is against sanctioned tournament rules - from Friday Night Magic up to the Pro Tour, but what right do others have to tell me what I can and cannot allow in non-sanctioned play or at Commander night with my friends?
That said, my friends and I often "cheapass draft" in our homes - we generate random boosters, print them on paper, cut and fit them atop bulk commons in sleeves, and then draft/battle for the cost of six sheets of color laser print. No money changes hands, we're never going to try and pass off these obvious printouts as anything other than playtesting.
Just figured I'd expound on the ethics - both societal and personal - around this topic since you questioned them.
To me, that sounds like the optimal way to play trading card games.
Obviously the objections to pokemon cards never reached any sort of critical mass as objections to loot boxes seem to be. Maybe that says something about differences between the two industries, or maybe that says something about how society has progressed in the past two decades.
I think it says more about how little friction there is to click a button, spend money, and get a loot box vs walking to the store with cash in hand to get a physical pack of cards. Sure, I could drop $100 on a booster box, but it still required that I had the money in hand and had to physically go somewhere to get it. Those cards also took up space and had to be kept organized to keep track of valued vs non-valued cards. It took a lot of work to get that hit of dopamine, whereas now a 15-year-old kid can sit down at a computer and within 30 seconds start dumping tons of money into loot boxes.
I'll play a free game that is monetized via loot boxes. But I won't buy a game that then requires me to buy loot boxes to do better in the game because in my mind I already paid for the game and shouldn't have to pay any more.
Why is C a problem? It's a mid-point between A and B.
I don't mind paying for good content, but pay to win is a deal breaker.
Or regressed, depending on your views about personal liberty and what the obligations of the state are.
Personally, I believe casinos pose a risk of not only spending money, but also exposure to much more harmful activities (drugs, prostitution, violence). These other risks have to factor into the equation, and for playing a game on a computer/phone, those risks just aren't there like they are in a casino. That's why I have a separate opinion on loot crates vs casinos.
I guess what I am getting at is that loot crates can only be a waste of money, but kids already spend their money on other "wasteful" activities like purchasing video games, so why should there be any difference just because the mechanics of the game are different?
yes, because the mechanism of gambling is addictive. (this too applies to subsets of video games as well, but at least most of them don't allow open-ended money spending)
Obviously it depends on everybody's definition of liberty, but most people seem to be happy to, as a society, put limits on the consumption of goods that foster unhealthy, addictive behaviour in individuals and cause financial or personal damage.
I for example don't have a problem with video games that foster creativity, problem solving and leave children with genuinely satisfying experiences. I am concerned about social media and games that only implement stick and carrot mechanisms to maximize the time children spend in front of them.
I spent a good amount of money on pay-to-win games when I was younger (buying weapon upgrades, more materials, gold, etc), the only difference was that the exact item was listed-- no surprises. Why should anyone besides my guardian decide whether or not that counts as "unhealthy, addictive behavior"? I could have bought a nearly endless supply of these in-game items that really served no purpose just as much as people do with loot crates.
Should we in-game purchases for those in-game items too, under the premise that purchasing them is unbounded, unhealthy and addictive?
I think that the premise is a little weaker for straight up purchases because the uncertainty associated with gambling is what makes it so exciting, but yes if we would observe that a lots of children or families are unable to manage their finances and that this negatively impacts the financial behaviour of especially young adults, sure I don't see any problem with regulating them and limiting the use of those mechanisms in videogames.
Yeah, as a kid it was always very annoying how everything but gambling was easily accessible.
Nobody would card me when going to a bar, brothel or when buying drugs... But entering a casino? heh
Collecting a series of stamps or collecting cards are very different from a dopamine drip which sits on your phone and can follow you everywhere.
SV spends all its time to make frictionless interaction pushing people to manage their actions. UI UX design intended to be easier than using horrid things like paper cards.
Gambling systems designed to hit every known behavioral reinforcement schedule, interactive videos and graphics to make it immersive.
Collectible cards and loot boxes are similar the same way ancient alchemists are like a modern pharmaceutical company.
The article says they already did: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-04-19-the-netherland...
Different jurisdictions feel differently about this, I'm sure. If the collectible's company plays dumb and never acknowledges the secondary market, they'll be more likely to stay clear of legal regulation.
After all, they're just selling piece of cardboard. What the people choose do with those pieces of cardboard is their prerogative, wink, wink.
Regarding trading card games, they are indeed awfully closed to gambling; and they are in fact the main defense of the game publishers, arguing that this is just a "collect and play" type of game, and isn't gambling.
But isn't the interactivity, the bells and wistles, animations of the lootbox openings closer to addictive reward patterns than just opening a plastic card booster pack ?
This, for the majority of IAP, is super untrue, unless you mean selling on a secondary market. If this is what you mean, then Wizards of the Coast better start worrying because anyone buying rares from the local gaming shop is now engaging in gambling and, by your logic, responsible by WotC.
In fact, the big problem here is precedence. How long do you think it will take before a litigious company starts targeting "physical" lootboxes like MtG or Pokemon or any physical variable reward package. The mechanics are the same, the reward rarity weight can be exactly the same, just the medium has changed.
This law is dangerous, because you could have gotten the same result (protect children/persons susceptible to skinner box mechanics) with a little more nuance.
Also, the big losers here are decent apps that don't have predatory IAP that are caught in the crossfire.
It's kind of shocking the lack of foresight being seen in this thread.
Yes, they do the same thing. Of course they should be hit just the same.
- The physical card packs have predetermined and known probabilities.
- The 'opening' ceremony is rather benign and not designed to stimulate
- Once printed and distributed no further psychological tweaking mechanisms can be employed to 'hook' the player
(2/3) agreed there is a difference, although it was still magical as a child and there was definitely something calling me back. A lot of those packs were interesting only because I watched 100 episodes of the greatest adventurer known to me (Ash Ketchum) and my own adventures playing Pokemon on the gameboy for 100+ hours.
> For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase. This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results.
ERSB seems like a good mechanism.
That said, an "AO" rating would indeed have a chilling effect on store shelves (since most retailers don't even want to carry AO games at all). It could be feasible to make loot boxes an automatic elevation to ESRB AO / PEGI 18 / etc. should those organizations want to do so (and hopefully they would indeed want to do so).
Depending on the case it might be gambling, it might be not - like for example a Picture Album, you can usually buy the missing cards for a flat fee (per missing card)
It's not about protecting daddy's credit card; gambling can be an extremely addictive and corrupting activity, one that children should not be exposed to as part of their daily gaming.
Help me understand, because I don't, with some cursory Googling. Specifically, where does the line start and end here, and where on a scale are we with:
* Kinder Eggs / Happy Meal Toys
* MtG / Pokemon Card boxes
* Loot Boxes
Are all gambling? Are all "fully fledged gambling lunacy"? Genuine question asked in good faith.
Under the Kinder/Happy Meal is gambling logic, buying a bag of M&Ms could also be gambling because I "value" the blue ones the most and will receive a psudorandom number of blue M&Ms in the bag.
There is also a big difference in intent. Spend $5 on a Happy Meal and you are spending $4.90 for a meal and $0.10 for a piece of junk toy. And half the time you can ask for a specific toy anyway. On the other hand, spend $5 on loot boxes (or scratch tickets, lottery tickets) and there is no expectation of any other "value" than the potential value of your winnings.
Speeding is not dangerous in itself, until you actually hit somebody. By your logic there should be no speed limit anywhere but only charges when you hit somebody. The whole concept of regulation would also have to be scraped. Why would we have safety norms ? Not respecting them can lead to problems but well...
Maybe that is your view but I don't think it is widely shared.
Regarding safety: alcohol is perfectly legal and I'm sure we can all agree on that it is extremely (more so than other substances) detrimental to health and other members of the society. On the basis of banning things for safety, it should be banned. Fun fact: it isn't. Another fun fact: prohibition wouldn't work.
> Speeding is not dangerous in itself, until you actually hit somebody. By your logic there should be no speed limit anywhere but only charges when you hit somebody.
Elaborate on how speed limits work or how come they are effective, if they indeed are. Maybe we can work out something. :)
I would also like you to point out its relevance to the prohibition of loot crates for the "safety of our kids and vulnerable people".
Regarding speed limits, I recommend https://mises.org/library/privatization-roads-and-highways.
Additionally, I would rather you avoid the use of "by your logic" when in fact it does not conform to my "logic", it conforms to your perceived and false interpretation of what my logic might be, which you extended to an entirely different issue and imagine that it somehow undermines my argument. There is a difference between having speed limits enforced by X and assuming that the majority of people would respect it, and banning loot crates on the premise that it benefits the kids and vulnerable people while depriving "non-vulnerable" or "less vulnerable" adults completely on the same premise.
Please enlighten us to your alternate proposal to having a functioning society that is not based in a concept of a Code of Laws.
My prior response was a very human one, equally as intellectually worthless as to the non-sequitor it is in reply to. By definition criminals don't follow laws. It's a circular kind of logic. Hence, trying to claim I am fallacious for highlighting this kind of lack of intellectual rigor I find insulting (Edit: Providing sources without commentary and telling me to "get informed" does not make a compelling argument). That I am expected to resolve this circular logic in a way that suits you is ideological entrapment that allows you to weasel out by playing the "I didn't claim that" card which I find boring and lazy and not an argument at all. Hence me trying to immediately resolve the ambiguity and move onto more productive areas of discussion by directly challenging the circular logic, and your predictable response trying to play said "I am being straw-manned". I prefer moving forward together, but cannot do it alone. I need your input.
I am sure you have great ideas but please consider working on your delivery.
Emphasis on tone, and I do get that. People don't like my tone, and they don't like being told they are at fault and that they are doing a terrible job at being parents. By "effectively", you mean by sugarcoating the message I'm trying to convey? Look, my point was that prohibition, when there are other alternatives that doesn't involve depriving other people of something, won't make you any less responsible for your child. Look at some of the responses to my comments regarding that, it's fascinating to think that some of these people may really be parents.
> By definition criminals don't follow laws. It's a circular kind of logic.
My problem is that people are too keen on regulating and prohibiting anything in the name of safety and whatnot and do actually believe it's going to be effective. It's not.
Let's say you - a law-abiding citizen - need a "good reason" which is determined by the court to carry a knife, and good reason does not include self-defense, and it excludes any knives that would be actually effective against perpetrators with a knife, for example. Now, by definition a criminal doesn't care about this law, and you have no ways of defending yourself. How is this legislation (prohibition) in favor of the law-abiding citizen? It straight out deprives said citizen from the means of defending themselves. In addition to that, pepper sprays are also illegal. How are you supposed to defend yourself by other than running away (not doable in many scenarios), not going outside and assuming they won't break into your house, or hiring bodyguards when you can't afford it? Just put yourself in a scenario. You are a law-abiding citizen and you live in London. I hope you agree that there are many areas that are not exactly safe. Do you like the fact that you are unable to defend yourself without breaking the law? Prohibition is not exactly on your side, is it? What do you think?
For some fun:
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/127 or the full response at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/203615.
It's a great game, isn't it?
This exactly describes cryptocurrency.
Is this the case for these loot boxes?
As a side note, I remember MtG being called "cardboard crack" back in the day, including by those who played it.
Or use the opening of packs for actual gaming with the various ways to play with them.
The entire industry knows this is going on. Parents have complained for years, but nothing's changed.
I believe adults are the real whales they're after. Most children have no way to pay for virtual goods. It's adults who even know they are gambling, but they enjoy it just like adults enjoy gambling in a casino.
The mere fact that we aren't swamped with such stories (I can recall reading maybe 4-5 over the past 5 years) confirms that it's really, really rare thing to happen.
There would be no way for a kid to just show up with a credit card and make an out-of-character purchase of $1k+. This is especially true for games with tradeable items. This is true for the same reason that you can't just show up and buy BTC with a Credit Card. Fraud would be rampant.
Then it should be the parents' responsibility to educate their children, and not give them a device with a credit/debit card attached to the logged account.
That won't be enough for many, including the Belgian government, apparently. Even adults are not responsible enough, it would seem, to handle credit or debit cards.
Why haven’t the licensed gambling venues (casinos, lotto, and what have you) pressured the regulators to stop the unlicensed gambling? Or have they and I’m not aware / the regulator is dragging its feet?
Do the licensed gambling entities not perceive this as a threat? Or has gambling revenue increase overall because these games / apps basically groom young people in to being habitual gamblers as they age?
Probably a little of column A, a little of column B. The kids gambling with these games aren't potential customers for casinos since they're underage, but the habits they form as children may translate into willingness to gamble as adults. Maybe those kids-turned-adults will continue to gamble with video games instead of casinos, but I'd wager those casinos expect it to be a net positive for them overall. After all casinos offer "perks" that video games can't; free drinks, buffets, etc..
My Dad's a great poker player and his secondary source of income vanished overnight. He still complains about it.
When Apple had long and thoightful review practices we treated them as the business murderers. And yet here we are asking exactly for their long and painful review process to have a comeback.
That said I'm curious what happened and why these things are so addictive. As a kid I collected Wacky Packages. They were parody stickers that came in a pack of like 3 or 5 with a stick of gum just like Baseball Cards. While I probably owned 150 stickers or so I would never have considered myself addicted nor my friends. We were into them for a couple of months, probably spent no more than $20 total each.
Compare to my nephew who was into Pokemon Cards and spent hundreds of dollars. Of course I new a few kids that seriously into baseball cards but they were the exception. With Pokemon cards it seemed much much better. Also before that a large percentage of my adult friend spent hundreds on Magic the Gathering cards. Some spent thousands.
Now we have IAP in apps and some people are spending like crazy.
What happened? What made Magic the Gathering and Pokemon so big compared to Baseball Cards? What made IAP so big? I can only guess 2 things about IAP. One that it's super each to buy being connected directly to your account. Two that being a video game they can more easily use psychological techniques to manipulate people. That might explain the IAP issues. Not sure it explains Pokemon + Magic the Gathering vs Baseball Cards.
I grew up with Pokemon and I might have some answer for that.
Before Pokemon I had a binder of basketball cards. I collected them but I never had a lot of them. Some of them were cool and shiny, some were split into three parts so they were three smaller cards in one and I liked those as well. Additionally I had a favorite team; the Chicago Bulls and of course those cards were special to me as well. Still though there wasn't much you could really do with the basketball cards and I think probably the same goes with baseball cards right? I had my binder, I'd sit down and flip through the binder, I'd trade cards with others now and then.
When Pokemon came, it took our school by storm. We were all watching the Pokemon anime on TV, we were playing Pokemon on our Gameboy Color units, and we played Pokemon the trading card game (TCG).
Pokemon the TV series told the story of a boy that was about our age. He went on a grand adventure, he was considerate towards his Pokemons and towards others. But most importantly, he was on a mission to catch them all and to become the very best. This idea; catch them all and become the very best is repeated pretty much non-stop throughout the whole TV series and the movies.
So Ash Ketchum (the main character of the first series) becomes an idol for us kids and we want to be like him. We want to become Pokemon masters.
We play the Gameboy game day out and day in when we are at home. Grinding, grinding, grinding. Battling. Grinding. Advancing in the game. The school did not allow us to bring our Gameboys though. However we played the Pokemon TCG a lot during recess. We also played the Pokemon TCG at home because it was fun -- it wasn't just a substitute for the Gameboy game, but nonetheless I think the fact that we were not allowed to bring our Gameboys to school made us play the TCG even more at school than we would have otherwise. But I think it was good that we were not allowed to bring our Gameboys to school. Playing the TCG was a much more social activity IMO.
So we play the TCG and we all want to be the very best. How do you become best? You build the best deck. But there is no single best deck. The strength of your deck depends on what your opponent has in his/her deck. Also the best cards are more rare than the others of course. Additionally the drawings on the cards were awesome and everyone wanted shiny cards which were also rare.
It was a perfect storm. Very very clever marketing.
I think Pokemon contributed a lot to my childhood though and I am happy that Nintendo made Pokemon.
F2P apps that use dark patterns and psychological tricks to extract money from their userbase might actually be closer in nature to Pokemon than I'd like to admit but still it feels fundamentally different. You might argue that in a way the Pokemon TCG was "pay to win" and in a way I would agree but at the same time the TCG still depended on being able to balance your deck correctly and there was always a strong element of randomness that no amount of money could get rid of for you.
In conclusion, with the Pokemon TCG you had both the prettiness of the cards (some kids collected only and never played even) but you also have the utility of the cards in playing a game combined with the best cards being rare, causing many of us to buy as many of them as we could get money for from our parents so that we could build better decks than our friends had and beat them and also so that we could show off our rarest cards to one-another.
Speaking of rarity; I know there are some baseball cards that are more rare than others. I don't know if the same goes for basketball cards but when we collected basketball cards there was never any talk about rarity. Perhaps likewise rarity of baseball cards was not something that kids "knew about"? With Pokemon cards you knew for example that shiny cards were rare because you could tell from the fact that you usually did not get any of them in the booster packs and the full decks contained like one of them or so, so it was immediately obvious that the shiny cards were "special". The Pokemon cards also had various markings that we attributed value to.
Furthermore, with Pokemon you knew the Pokemons from the show and everyone had their favorite Pokemon. For many of the Pokemons, multiple different cards existed, so there were more than just one card to collect for each of the Pokemons that you liked among the 151 Pokemons. Additionally, there were other types of cards that were needed for the game, including "trainer cards" that gave special powers or other advantages and there were "potions" and there were "energy colors" that you needed for attacks. The energy cards were the least valuable because they were so common. Some rare kinds of energy cards existed as well of course but everyone had way more energy cards than they needed. There were some trainers and potions that were very common as well, and some Pokemons that were too. But sometimes you'd find that other kids wanted the cards that you didn't want and you'd trade with them. For example I once traded a common Pikachu card with a kid that was obsessed with Pikachu and he gave me a card that in my eyes was much better, so we both ended up very happy from that trade.
I also remember there was a series of Pokemon cards that were not the TCG type cards. Neither me nor anyone I knew liked those cards, exactly because you couldn't do anything with them other than to just look at them whereas with the TCG cards you could both look at them and play with them. So definitely the being able to play with them aspect was hugely important.
grep -re '(Joe Schmoe|John Doe)'
Back in the day of stickers/baseball cards your data granularity was probably down to state/city-level sales by month.
Now in the world of F2P gaming, you have per-minute per-user level of data. You're able to A/B the uplift in sales:
- for introducing slot-machine like sound effects when opening the loot box
- adding flashes when you open the loot box
- giving out fewer lootboxes per hour
- introducing more rare and powerful things in the lootbox
You have "engagement" people who's sole job is to make stuff addictive nowadays, no longer is it a few people's job to dream up something fun to use and collect. It's now a cynical and scientific exercise to ruthlessly optimise IAP.
I was on the train the other day, the girl sitting next to me was playing one of those games where you have to watch an ad to get to the next level.
Just as she was about to level up the train went into a tunnel so the ad wouldn’t play. Within seconds literally she was frantic, eyes staring, pounding the screen with her finger, I almost thought she would crack the glass.
If that’s not addiction I don’t know what is. Makers of these games need to take a good hard look at themselves in the mirror.
"And what's the problem in putting heroin in Coca-Cola if it makes everyone feel good?" is my usual stance on that matter, unfortunately not everyone shares my view of the link between UX dark-patterns and addictive substances.
You could play pretty far into the game without spending a dime (except $0.99 after every 20 levels or so if you didn't want to bug your friends to log in and help get you the ticket to unlock the next section...).
I'm pretty sure I got to like level 128 without using any of their consumable items except in one level where I was forced to as a tutorial, and another level where I used one I was given for free because I had replayed the level too many times and was sick of it.
You do have limited 'lives' per day (and then they try to sell you on getting more to keep playing), but I saw that as a daily challenge of how far I could get before the lives depleted, since as long as I kept beating levels I didn't lose lives, and once it did, I quit for the day.
All in all, I got a lot of enjoyment out of that game and only spent less than $10. And that money spent was easily worth it.
That being said, I have heard that the later levels are absolutely brutal, and are nearly impossible to beat without using the consumables or getting damn lucky with the types and patterns of candy that appeared, so it may get more predatory at that point.
They get far far more random- often times you only have one or two possible moves, or you have one okay move and a couple useless moves near the top of the screen. That turns it into literally a slot machine.
So it becomes absolutely a matter of trying 20 times, and the game only gives you three free lever pulls per 24 hours.
It’s the same reason people open up Facebook or Reddit or Hacker News every day: you don’t know what interesting content you’ll see and that keeps you coming back.
Except games aren’t social network filled with user generated content. Developers make the content (items, skins etc) and have figured out that presenting in a randomised way drives better engagement.
The purpose of Pokémon and MtG cards are to use them in games/competitions, where the more desirable/expensive cards yield a game advantage.
But baseball cards were(are) primarily used for fans of the players/game, to learn about players (stats),not a game in itself. Sure some cards were more desirable than others, but more for bragging than game advantage.
I think the more comparable to Pokémon and MtG, is fantasy sports leagues where the addiction is rampant.
Collecting something, having a binder with your collection, showing it to people... is an attractive activity for many, and may not be that different from playing against said people.
I was deep into MtG (playing in tournaments, wining a few small ones, throwing a few hundred bucks at it), although I've never gotten into any other collection hobby.
To me, playing was the best part and what gave meaning to the rest of it. I loved the competitiveness, and coming up with strategies... but also the social aspects of it, of seeing others do the same activities. Many of these social aspects can still be there for "collecting without playing"-alternatives right? I enjoyed greatly seeing rare cards in other peoples collection, and getting a few of my own (rare editions, customized units, misprints...)
So yeah, for people that only care about the competitive aspects, MTG is totally different from baseball cards; for others, both hobbies may share many aspects.
Nowadays, the parent's card is on their app store account and the kid can press a button to receive their instant gratification. It's just too easy...
Combine that with the fact the collecting aspect is attached to an addictive video game.
For IAP: Instant gratification coupled with tons of analytics. Being able to tweak the balance until you get just enough valuable items to continue even if you don't get the item you really badly want. Making it into a weapons race or status race with other players (I once used about $200 on buying boosts in a niche online strategy game because another player pissed me off enough that I "bankrolled" an entire alliance just to see him lose; I subsequently closed my account and never played the game again, as I realized how easy it'd be to keep throwing money at it - it felt worth it for the satisfaction that once, but it'd have been a really bad habit to get into).
That's why most decks played in competitive Magic only have 75 cards, but usually average several hundred dollars, sometimes pushing 1000 in some formats.
I know when I played for a bit back during my school days it was just me and a couple friends who did it fairly casually, so there was very little pressure to spend lots of money to build a great deck. And if someone did try to spend tons of money we probably would have harassed them about it anyways.
The problem is nowadays, due to the online nature of these games, is that you aren't just playing with friends and other people near you, you are playing with anyone who happens to be online. That means you are much more likely to play against people with good decks who spent lots of money building that deck. So the pressure is much greater to also spend money.
> why these things are so addictive
Baseball cards became a thing because Americans already had too much money. Other countries that got hit by world wars didn't have baseball cards.
New milenium came and now money is more useless than ever and people have much eadier time to gamble it away.
The cards were sold in packs of ten or something, and kids used to trade them with each other in the playground.
This reminded me that I should start collecting the Panini stickers for the upcoming football World Cup. The only issue is that I've read recently that they doubled in price and I had a hard-time convincing myself to throw money their way even they were cheaper, much less now, with the current price. Which is a shame, because I first collected World Cup Panini stickers 25 years ago, when I was a kid.
Don't play the games then.
I can't remember the numbers, but there's 32 teams of 11 players (not including subs), there's 8 cards in a pack, of which there are typically 2-3 duplicates, so you need to buy multiples of the same team just to complete one team and then swap with friends at school to complete the others.
And that's the hook that gets ~~kids~~ parents buying, it's the element of peer pressure. My boy is not into football and isn't collecting the cards, he's currently a social outcast as a result. Fortunately, he has a strong character and isn't bothered by it, but peer pressure is the answer to your question IMO.
There are you tube videos my kids liked to watch of people just literally opening pokemon packs. I'd actually be OK with making this illegal.
Especially considered the frenzied buying and selling of pokemon cards at their school..
This is actually pretty huge. There is a very massive industry both virtual and non that relies on preying on kids and their gambling instinct.
Steam makes a lot of money on Counter Strike via this.
But I do see a few tiny differences in general between loot boxes and physical items like trading cards:
1. the packet does contain physical items which cost money to produce, whereas a duplication of a virtual item is effectively the distribution cost.
2. Retailers made a profit on physical items too. With virtual items sold by developer-publishers like EA and Valve, it's really just one party.
3. There is typically no limit on the number of loot boxes you can purchase. With physical items there is the stock of the shop.
4. Loot boxes can in some cases be purchased with other people's (usually parents) cards by default and without their immediate knowledge.
5. It isn't routine for somebody to give you a pack of physical tradable items for free to go and feel what they are like. If you go and buy them, there is a small amount of honesty in terms of what you are getting. With loot boxes, you are presented with them through in game events and then provided with the opportunity to buy more.
6. With physical items, you don't know how things are distributed but you can be reasonably certain that they can't be targeted at you. If you're looking for card X, the shopkeeper usually has no way of knowing what pack contains that and withholding that pack from you to maximise profit. You have no idea how the loot boxes are distributed. It is entirely possible for developers to detect when somebody is "hooked", work out what they are after, and attempt to maximise profit by withholding the desired item.
The only thing that could prevent such abuses is to regulate loot boxes as gambling as several countries have now done and respond with immense penalties where regulations are violated (a multiple of what would be made * estimated chance of being caught or a fraction of published turnover).
Although I believe they do weigh Pokemon booster packs to find the ones with more valuable shiny cards.
You want to make something illegal because you don't like it, because you can't be bothered to parent your children.
For a set of 16 Lego figures (ignoring attempts to squidge the packet before buying, but also ignoring swaps) you'd expect to buy over 50 packs.
It can cost hundreds of dollars to complete a panini book, and that's with vigorous swapping.
I agree with you about Pokémon cards and Lego minifig packs. They should be regulated.
All blind bags cost the same amount, but the rarity aspect could encourage kids to buy more bags in an effort get lucky and find the rare figure. This could be construed as gambling.
I thought they were above shithead tactics like this.
Apple has started mandating this:
But Steam, Google Play, PlayStation, XBox, and smaller platforms all need to follow suite, very quickly. Or they'll face even harsher legislations around the world.
I don't think there is much of a difference and both cases should be more regulated (especially those catering to children who do not know any better).
Trading Pokemon cards, I reckon I spent more on booster packs trying to get a Charizard than I've spent on all of the chests, loot boxes and packs in games, for nothing more than a piece of card that (sadly) eventually gets water damaged...
I'm also not clear how this differs from an MMO where you kill monsters over and over hoping for piece of random loot that can then be virtually sold.
It's exploiting dopamine hits but not as aggressively, and it doesn't - presumably - cost real money every time you try.
Yeah, I'm not a big fan of the people in these discussions who gloss over the "pay money to roll the dice" portion of the gambling issue.
With an MMO you have to put time and effort into it. It is, in essence, work. And if you don't like the results you can work some more. It would be the same as selling access to a gold panning stream for a lame real world analogy.
The second issue is that a physical object, like cards or stickers, does at least feel like a physical object, in that it's very easy to tell if you start having an excessive amount of them. On the other hand, on a lootbox, there isn't really a innate difference in response to buying one vs buying one hundred. So it eases some of the friction as well.
So I took a glance doing a few Google searches and it seems that physical card packs has a global market of a few billions. The number varies a lot since some of the data include card trade as well as pack sells. One data point argued a 450 million from news packs and 3 billions from card trade, specific for sport cards. For loot boxes I would estimate the number to be around 100x of that, give or take. For every $10 in the past there is $1000 dollar being spent on virtual packs.
It seems reasonable to me that a government body might not care too much about a $450 million industry, but do care a lot when it is a $100 billion industry.
Here is a few new random google glances:
$116 billion in total video game market, $50 billion for just the mobile market. How much of that is micro transaction? Don't know. How much is loot boxes. Don't know.
Blizzard reported more than half their revenue, $4 billion, was from micro-transactions. https://www.gamespot.com/articles/activision-blizzard-made-4...
EA reported similar $2 billion, almost half of their revenue, from micro-transactions.
According to this random article, loot boxes are around $30 billion this year and expected to reach $50 billions in 4 years. https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2018-04-17-loot-boxes...)
The first ones are trading cards, including games like "Magic: the Gathering". If you are lucky, you can sell a card you got from a booster pack for way more than what you originally paid. And chances that you can don't even have to leave the shop to do it.
What makes gambling is that you get money for money, not worthless prizes like in the case of most loot boxes. It is an additional risk because there is always hope that you will be able to recover your losses and you may spend more than you can afford. With loot boxes and most other random prizes, it is clear that while you may get something nice, that money will be gone for good.
As for game developers, they don't lack options for Skinner box schemes. Loot boxes are just one among others, there are things like energy systems that are popular on mobile games that don't involve chance but have the same effect of making you spend more money than originally intended.
It is just that loot boxes look more like gambling, even though it isn't really, and are disliked by the majority. The rest is politics.
I think what triggered the problem with lootboxes is that the monetary value of the items is immediately obvious and you can trade those items without any friction over the internet at any moment. For many games an item is just equivalent to some amount of money. It's not a good, it's casino tokens that you can exchange for real money at the counter. Selling cards, especially before the internet, was way more complicated and most 12yo at the time probably wouldn't bother unless they were extremely lucky and managed to acquire a very expensive card "charlie and the chocolate factory" style. Cards have pretty limited liquidity, unlike digital goods that can be traded quickly and safely across continents in an instant.
I don't play a ton of games featuring random item drops but if I look at my Steam inventory for instance I can get the immediate value at which any item is trading (including loot boxes and their keys, but also skins, cards, emoticons, profile backgrounds...). Valve itself plays into this by tracking the price and making it easily available to anybody. You can directly, from Steam, trade these items for money (well, money locked into your Steam account, but money nonetheless).
On the other hand when I was a teen and played Magic: The Gattering most of the time I had no idea of the value of an individual card and checking it would have involved buying specialized magazines (the internet was only in its infancy at the time). We traded cards only for other cards and based mostly on our own subjective assessment of their relative values and how they fit into our decks (or even if the drawing looked cool), not based on some global card exchange with real-time trading.
On top of this there are a huge number of 3rd party "casino" sites for these in-game items who add another layer of gambling on top of the lootbox concept. Those websites don't hesitate to pay Twitch streamers to "play" on their site, sometimes even tweaking the odds to make them win more than average to make it even more enticing for the (often very young) watchers. It's scummy as hell and while Valve & friend don't directly partake in this they very clearly enable this behavior with their policies (and they APIs).
I could see the point of somebody arguing that MtG and Pokemon are gambling but these video game economies are on a whole other level.
If this were really what they wanted to target then they should have applied the law to loot boxes with tradable items. I don't play most of the games, but at least in Overwatch the random items are completely locked to your account. You get the ability to use whatever skins, voice lines, etc. you find in the box and there is absolutely no secondary market or anything else to do with them.
I doubt it was only sometimes. I bet it was pretty much every time. A few have actually been caught red-handed doing just that.
Another hypothesis is that video game players who don't partake in loot boxe gambling have become ticked off (perhaps because they perceive the gameplay to be neglected by companies who make their real money from these loot boxes.) These anti-loot video game players may then become activists against loot boxes, drawing broader public attention to the issue. Card collection games probably don't attract/create as many motivated activists calling for regulation and reform.
This suddenly boom in popularity and the discussions that it has caused has likely caused it to be brought to light more strongly. It's very possible that we'll see them start to aim at physical grab-bags soon as well.
I know it sounds 'illogical', as they both at first glance seem alike, but there are aspects of difference to consider.
Loot boxes are generally packaged with 'addiction triggering' opening ceremonies. Furthermore, the probabilities are not publishes (afaik they are for trading card games), and the digital platform also enables for far more ingenious addiction/purchase/retention inducing psychological gaming than physical card packs.
Sorry, but virtual flames shooting out of a box and a "here, you lost" screen doesn't exactly stimulate a dopamine response.
Overwatch's loot box is a masterpiece of audio-visual design. "It's all about building the anticipation. When the box is there you're excited at the possibilities of what could be inside," says senior game designer Jeremy Craig. Click the ‘Open loot box’ button and the box bursts open, sending four disks into the sky. Their rarity is indicated by coloured streaks to further build the suspense. "Seeing purple or gold you start to think about what specific legendary or epic you've unlocked. This all happens so fast, but it was those discrete steps that we felt maximized excitement and anticipation."
I get the impression people saying that are just making excuses because they don't like loot boxes as a business model for games. Would you be accepting of it if they replaced it in the game with a simple click and get the result system?
As for adults however, my philosophy is that we should stop treating them as kids that need to be told what they are and aren't allowed to do. Loot boxes are addictive? So is sugar, alcohol, sex and 1000 other things. Do we want to go down that road?
If someone wants to gamble a percentage of his income, that should be his choice. If he wants to gamble away all his money or even put himself into debt, also his choice.
For starters there are limits to how many gambling licenses are available from the government each year and companies have to apply and pay for them.
But my comment was mostly targeted to several other comments here that seemed over-eager to accept something should be rendered illegal simply because it's addictive and some people can't control themselves.
In gambling you are mostly doing it for a clear financial gain: you play for money/fiat. Loot boxes, sticker albums, and so on, the primary purpose is not a financial gain. That is a byproduct and secondary, which some elect to make it their primary purpose for engaging in it.
IMO this is a symptom of people not being able to manage their finances properly and identify potentially destructive behaviours. This would push the solution for the problem to Education, how schools should help people in learning the skills necessary to both manage their money and notice when a certain behaviour they are about to engage in, or repeat one too many times, will produce a generally negative outcome for their mental and financial health.
And no, I'm not a fan of loot boxes. Never bought one and think they are mostly used by the publishers in a very bad, and silly, way.
Does that include bitcin mining, the probability that your facebook post is visible for your friends, the probability that an advertisement is shown to a specific user, is sortition illegal?
(1) It's a game /* hello, Wittgenstein */
(2) There's a (financial) stake
(3) The player can win or lose (i.e. they're not guaranteed a specific return)
(4) An element of chance is involved
This element is generally included more to avoid accidentally outlawing insurance and financial securities than out of an idea that fun is inherently evil.
Which is to say, they don't care if something IS a game; they care that it ISN'T something they consider productive.
Since the problem does not affect me specifically (not a child nor a gamer, nor a parent of such a person) I can see why this seems ammusing in the sense that we see lawmmakers drown in their own rules again, even though I don't think it is amusing in general.
In fact it bothers me, because I am very much against "void for vagueness" rules, while in this case it is very hard for me to formalize a general prinicple differentiating good and bad (although I consider a lot of the insurance stuff nonsense tbh...).
If I had to formalize a principle, I think it would start from informed consent: i.e. a lottery ticket should define exactly the probability of each possible return scenario, and also the expectation value of the return. And then in order to legally buy lottery tickets you would need a non-expired certificate that proves you understand expectation value, where the certificate is issued after passing some automated exam say at the city hall. Just passing it once should not suffice to gamble the rest of your life after forgetting how expectation values work.
In this way children, or uneducated adults, or elderly with dementia are prevented from gambling unless they "regularly" prove to society that they understand what an expectation value of return of 50% means (if you buy $1000 worth of lottery tickets with 50% expectation value, on average you get $500 dollar back, and that is already taking into account the cases you win the top prize), and how to calculate this in general...
All the places where the tickets get sold would have to be mystery-shopper checked by the government so that if a place sells a ticket to a person without the valid certified status, they get a big fine.
If the same was done for insurance etc, then at least the consumer can be said to have given informed consent to the transaction. But don't get surprised if suddenly a large part of the population stops different kinds of insurance, or at least systematically en masse switch to whoever has the best offer, putting pressure in order to get democratic pricing of insurance etc...
Not just licenses for the gambling houses, but also for the gamblers, like driver licenses...
(And also, Kinder Surprise contain chocolate, which makes them infinitely better than any virtual loot box could ever be, but that's just my personal opinion)
Edit: I was assuming gameplay-relevant loot boxes here, apparently some/all of those under Belgian scrutiny are just cosmetic mods, which brings them much closer to the Kinder Surprise analogy (although strictly speaking, I would not consider cosmetics entirely without gameplay effects in something like CS:GO, relative camouflage qualities of avatars were absolutely a consideration no my day)
A better example would be if Barbie, with her thousands and thousands of iterations, completely stopped selling the prepackaged outfits. Instead, you now have to buy a mysterious box, that has one top piece of an outfit, one bottom piece of an outfit, and one accessory. The pieces you get don't necessarily match.
On top of that, there are bigger value packs that give you five random ones of each type, or ten, or a hundred, depending on how much cash you want to spend. And on top of that, let's say that these outfits are impossible to trade.
I basically just described Overwatch lootboxes. The problem is not necessarily the lootboxes, which are fine as an in-game reward earned by completing games or leveling or what have you. The problem is that the only way to purchase more cosmetics is by chance; as a new player, there's no way to get a specific cosmetic guaranteed unless you either grind every waking moment or spend untold amounts of money.
At least when buying a pack of cards you know all of them will be cards.
Chocolate was good, though.
Where as in e.g. CS:GO you can get weapon skins that are worth thousands of dollars and are even tradeable for real money (via 3rd party sites).
Also because the skins are easily tradeable and have a real money value they are basically virtual casino chips. And they are used on real 3rd party gambling sites, which are completely unregulated and even children can participate. At that point it's beyond the loot boxes, it's real gambling with roulette and everything!
Not quite, as I point out in a comment to one of your siblings. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16929805
The high prices just come from the money that you theoretically need to unbox a rare one. I wonder however who does actually buy those.
Also, what is the probability distribution for kinder eggs? Most loot boxes have a chance to drop a variety of items at different likelihoods, generally with the most desirable items being very unlikely to drop (0.1-2%, depending on the game).
So yes, basically they are loot boxes, but at least you get chocolate (and a shitty toy).
Unless you were my buddy, who was obese as a kid but also a major collector, trader and seller. His mom prohibited him from eating the chocolate, and yet he still bought hundreds if not thousands of eggs per year, mostly financed by him selling rare collections he previously obtained, on top of his regular allowance. He used to bring huge bags of just the chocolate eggshells to school for us to eat...
Well, it wasn't entirely chance. I once or twice went to the shop with him and watched him select the eggs, by shaking and very carefully listening. He was really good (or really lucky) and IIRC was was close to a 2 in 3 success rate (compared to the 1 in 7 as the ads stated).
The figurines also were kinda shitty, but the ads hyped them and it was entirely a hype/collector thing, not intrinsic value, of course.
There is a vivid aftermarket for these promoted toys. They're worth more if you collect a full set.
You're right insofar as the non-promotional toys are pretty much only worthless plastic.
The ones I got still have value for me. Even some of the "worthless plastic" toys are actually quite creative (at least you often get some fun assembling them) and thus more than anything that can fall out of a digital loot box. As a child I didn't want to throw them away.
What is not coming up here very often is the irrational customer behaviour of buying digital objects, which will disappear when the servers turn off.
I have no hard rule about which kinds of gambling/investment should be completely forbidden but all should be scrutinised and some limitations should be imposed. Like a ban on advertising.
App economy is now gambling economy and at some point it will trigger heavy regulations.
You may get more money out than you put in, but they are compensating you for a loss. You are paying for risk mitigation, not potential profits.
Psychologically some humans receive a very powerful reward sensation specifically for gambles that pay off. It doesn't matter what the "reward" is so much as that they gambled and won, they get their buzz if they win a slice of cake for guessing how many puppies the secretary's greyhound would have, for a $50 win on the scratch-offs, or for finding the rare Pink Darth Vader in the loot box.
This compulsion is very powerful, and when harnessed it can be good for society - ordinary people do not try to fly faster than the speed of sound for the first time - and it can take individuals to the height of high-risk activities most of us wouldn't have the nerve to try, all the very good Poker players are gamblers for example. But it's also potentially catastrophic for the individual, because they can't stop - or at least they don't want to, and gambles never pay off forever.
This means that restricting gambling for money only worked because that was the most harmful practice available that triggered off this harmful pattern. Once video games began to rely on it too, offering $10 "loot boxes", there was a new way for problem gamblers to destroy their lives, even when you can't "cash out" your winnings, because the psychological compulsion doesn't care about that.
That being said, what about card packs in games like hearthstone? The cards can't be traded or sold, but they do change the gameplay and some cards are inherently stronger than others so gambling and getting "lucky" can give players an advantage. This is definitely closer to gambling than loot boxes in overwatch.
Opening 20 loot boxes in overwatch and getting no legendary skins feels bad but isn't frustrating, you don't need the skins. But opening 20 card packs for a new hearthstone expansion and getting none of the strong legendary cards feels super frustrating, you're at a disadvantage to players that did open those cards.
* there's no physical item involved
* the distribution in virtual systems can be changed to the customer's disadvantage
When a kid buys 30 card packs in a store, people notice. Also, holding 30 packs in your hands is very different from opening 30 virtual loot boxes, because the packs and contents don't just disappear into some virtual table.
And then, you can be sure that the distribution of cards has been decided before the packs have been put in the store and not changed on the fly to prey on the customer's addiction and make them buy even more.
Physical loot box systems are still addictive and borderline gambling, but the limits are much more defined.
A few common objections:
Pay-to-win: for those that are focused on skill and competition it sucks to be beaten and taunted by those that beat you because they paid extra to essentially make the game easier.
Balance: many games build their progression curve under the assumption that your stats are improving at a rate that can only be achieved by buying boxes, so the game may be fun but new content frustratingly out of reach unless you pay up.
And in both cases, if you decide to pay up...you probably don't get what you need because of the random and unbalanced design. So you pay again. And again. It is designed to hammer dopamine triggers, so you get just enough of happy payoffs to not stop, but not enough of a payoff to stop either.
Some are fine with the model but object to it hitting children who may not be able to recognize the cost/benefit balance.
Me? I'm glad to see it discouraged as gambling because it is just not fun for the base game. Skill or even just time invested in playing is replaced not only by money, but an unknown amount of money. This distorts game options - think of how many mobile games are time gated constantly with the option to buy stuff (gems, coins, etc) that will let you skip the waiting. Absent the profit, who would make a game where you can play for a few minutes and then have to wait hours to play again? But we fall for it. Or if we don't, we just don't get to play at all.
That's my beef with the "no one makes you play" argument. If i don't play, I'm the one that loses out. If the abuse human weaknesses and make bank (and they do! Unbelievably so), there are no equivalent competing products.
But short story long, that's what loot boxes are and why people object. They aren't a new concept, but they are so successful and profitable that each wave is more extreme.
Look, they say it's for the safety of your kids and vulnerable individuals: it must be good and do not dissent!
The Government has good intentions. /s
I have the feeling europeans are going to wake up one day and find the end result of all this legislation is to make a market very unfriendly to exist in.
So in WGs case what dollar amount the assign to a reward may not be what players perceive as correct. However they were not one of the companies investigated.
I find this a mind boggling decision
Disclaimer: I don't know jack shit about Belgian legislature history
Do the surprises have varying value? Are some worth 50c/trash while other 50USD/premium? Do they develop an addiction? Do you pay for the cereal or for an empty box with a toy inside? Are kids spending lots of money on them in the hopes of getting that special toy, or that specific fortune message?
Don't pretend like there's no difference.
I'd argue loot boxes are more similar to magic the gathering booster packs, but that's another discussion.
I wonder if the same people who have down-voted you and I also spoke out against Facebook and its anti-privacy issues.
EDIT: my friend just bought a bag of chips assuming it will taste good but it really doesn't. I guess if he's not allowed to taste it before buying, then it's gambling! Did you know that eating chips could contribute to numerous health and financial issues? Ban chips effective immediately! Think about the children!
Not sure about wherever you are from, but in Europe there is an expectation that food you can buy in stores is reasonably safe (milk is pasteurized, etc). It wouldn't be much of a stretch to regulate unhealthy ingredients. In fact, they do regulate stuff like this, it just takes time, see trans-fats.
I'll let you in on a little secret: regulations and expectations don't always reflect reality, and in many cases you'd be surprised what's in your food and how your food has been handled. Ignorance is bliss, and thinking that regulations and expectations have significant effects are naive to say the least. Let me ask you, and any further down-voter, do you live under a rock?
Albeit it's about pollution, it's still worth reading: https://mises.org/library/libertarian-manifesto-pollution
Regulate the amount of calories people can consume to prevent or treat obesity! Enforce it! Don't ever stop!
Building sites are dangerous for children and need to be banned because parents might take them to one and stop watching them while they jump off of a skyscraper.
Why should anyone take responsibility for what other people do? If I produce bleach and someone drinks it, why am I responsible for that? There are warnings everywhere, it's not my fault you ignore them or you are not cautious enough. We are heading towards the direction of abandoning all responsibility and shifting the blame to anyone but ourselves.
For people who think they won't be able to function without the State: https://mises.org/library/rothbard-and-nature-state
What I'm saying is that society is made up of people who make knee jerk reactions and moral outrage thrives. You can play the "above it all" card but that doesn't change the fact that our laws and society actually run on those perceptions.
Telling people to take personal responsibility doesn't matter at all except to inflate one's ego through social shaming. If enough people complain about something reality will reflect that from the bottom up.
You're working against your own interests by saying things like "take personal responsibility" / pull yourself up by your bootstraps, etc. Your narrative comes off as self serving and I'm almost certain you know it does. You've become addicted to how people react to you giving them the "uncomfortable truth." Good for the ego not much else.
Even if they say it's random and "X chance" who's auditing the code to check.
Basically, the argument is they are running a gambling operation without meeting the gambling regulations.
I think it's a good thing because loot boxes are bought by children and they don't realize that it's a game of luck.
But at the same time, there are things such as "Panini figures", stickers that you collect that work the same. When you buy a pack of stickers, you don't know what you'll get. And since the aim of the stickers is to fill a stickers' book, well, that's comparable to me... Dunno... Not sure...
Personally, I'm rather happy to see this action being taken; loot boxes are a predatory and frequently deceptive business model.
Are they? In Overwatch you only get cosmetic items, and you cannot trade them (so it's hard to argue they have financial value). In addition, when you would get a duplicate item you get in-game coins instead, and those coins can also be exchanged for cosmetic items.
Personally I think the mandatory animation when you open a lootbox takes too long so I've simply stopped opening them a while ago. I think I now have 20 unopened lootboxes?
Compare with Steam, where you could (can?) get "free" loot boxes, but you'd have to buy a key with real money to open them, and then the contents were random (but tradable with other players, for money). Now there's a company that is clearly begging to get banned by anti-gambling laws.
From a less personal perspective, Valve's products are much more blatantly akin to gambling; I see very little reason not to apply the same regulations to Dota or CS:GO loot boxes as would apply to any online casino.
Furthermore, some games silently vary the probability of drops based on prior results (without informing the player), a strategy designed to reinforce the Gambler's Fallacy and ensure users continue to open loot boxes after the first few.
OK, I understand. I naively thought that it was real luck at play. But you explain it's manipulated. If that's the problem, then I fully understand the gov't position.
I never thought of opening a random pack of stickers and gambling, but you definitely have a point. It is not trivial where to draw the line. In my case, I had a lot of fun (and no gambling addiction) with stickers, and even more with Magic the Gathering a few years later! (and I made some actual money with MtG card speculation when I was like 14).
Virtual loot boxes I see as quite evil though, I need to think for a while on what the differences are. Perhaps it's just prejudices due to my age but I never knew stickers or MtG gambling addicts and with loot boxes there seems to be much more risk of addiction.