The Chinese government doesn’t like a lot of things. Multiple children, Facebook, the Deadpool movie, the list continues. The serious news is that now it’s going after in-game loot boxes too.
Communist Party officials have issued new laws which state that loot boxes in popular games like Overwatch encourage gambling. And we all know what usually happens when the Chinese government disapproves of something. They ban it.
The new anti loot box laws won’t go quite that far though. Instead, the creators behind the offending games will have to publish the real odds of how likely a player is to get each item.
The big question now is whether Chinese politicians have left it too late to squash the popularity of games like Overwatch, Hearthstone, Dota 2 and CS:GO.
Over 20 million hours of Overwatch content was watched around the world on Twitch during November.
What Is The New Law, Exactly?
Official documents from China’s Ministry of Culture show what the government is expecting game companies to do. The document has the catchy title of ‘Regulating The Operation of Online Games and Strengthening The Supervision After The Event’. It declares:
‘The online game operator shall promptly announce the name, performance, content, quantity, and the probability of extraction or composition of all the virtual props and value-added services that may be extracted or synthesized on the official website of the game.’
What Does This Mean For Chinese Gamers?
Surprsingly, not that much really.
The mystery items in loot boxes won’t change and players will still be able to spend cash on as many loot boxes as they like. Plus, it’s not like seeing the terrible odds of picking up a super rare skin will actually put anyone off.
Games may not induce minors to cynicism, inferiority complex, fear, depression and other negative emotions. Cyberspace Administration of China, on young gamers
Gamers in North America and Europe are already acutely aware of how hard it is to get a decent item from CS:GO cases, Dota chests, Hearthstone packs and Overwatch loot boxes.
As Patricia Hernandez at Kotaku.com says, ‘How many effin’ times is a loot box going to award me a duplicate of this Toa skin? Nobody wants this Roadhog skin—the Mako is so much cooler—and yet Overwatch won’t stop taunting me with Toa over and over again’.
What’s The Problem Then?
Games like Overwatch and Dota have become massively popular really quickly. That means regulations about what is and isn’t allowed inside their gameverses haven’t been able to keep up.
These titles have grown from cult favorites played by hardcore fans to mainstream games played by the masses. Along with their exploding popularity comes the attention of the authorities.
It’s not hard to see why. These games have taken in-game purchases to a whole new level. As gaming evolves, in-game purchases are throwing up a messy heap of moral questions. Sure, a grown person choosing to spend their money on random mystery items inside a game is fine but children? Not so much.
Anti loot box fans have also pointed out that while gambling isn’t necessarily a bad thing for adults to do, not knowing the odds of the gamble you’re making is insane. Even land based and online casinos are forced to follow strict regulations and have to display every game’s payout percentage but at the moment, game developers can pretty much do what they like.
How Is The Future Looking?
There’s been a lot of speculation on Reddit about how the new Chinese laws will affect games with loot boxes in them. Some fans think that this will spell the end for in-game gambling because the Chinese market is so huge that no developer will want to risk showing their customers the real odds of collecting rare items.
Others argue that game companies will just release different versions of their games with different odds for specific countries.
Whatever happens, one thing is for sure. Overwatch fans will never be left without a way to spend their cash. Blizzard just released a trailer for its new limited edition Christmas themed loot boxes: