Remember that article from a while ago about the difference between loot boxes and gambling?
So does Sweden.
Loot boxes aren’t currently classified as a form of gambling under Swedish law, but in an interview with P3 News, Sweden’s Minister for Public Administration revealed that loot boxes could be reclassified as a form of gambling by 2019. Sweden has strict gambling laws, so including loot boxes in the definition of gambling would allow the country to regulate and control its influence. Currently, there is no way for the damage loot boxes can inflict to be mitigated, as seen with Oscar Hansson.
Oscar Hansson is a young man addicted to FIFA Ultimate Team. He says that overall the years he’s been playing, he’s dumped between 20,000-30,000 kronor into the game. That’s about $2500-$3700 USD! At the time of P3’s report, he’d just removed his debit card from his FIFA Ultimate Team account, but he doesn’t hesitate to describe his persistent purchase of loot boxes as “an addiction.”
The Minister, a man named Ardalan Shekarabi, said in his interview, “We are working to regain control of the gambling market as soon as possible, and to make sure that Swedish consumer protection laws apply to all actors which conduct gambling activities,” so it’s no wonder that something as ambiguous and attention-grabbing as the loot box debate has caught the eye of lawmakers.
As well, it’s blatantly clear where Shekarabi stands on the matter. When asked about whether he thought loot boxes should be classified as gambling, he replied, “I don’t want to rule out the possibility. It is obvious that there are many people suffering from gambling addiction, who also get stuck in this type of gambling and lose money because of it.”
Per Strömbäck, on the other hand, suggested that merely implementing age limits on games that include loot boxes is a better way of addressing the problem than the reclassification of loot boxes as gambling. The member of Dataspelsbranschen, an organization in the Swedish gaming industry, asserted that “Adult people are allowed to do what they want with their money. It’s not uncommon that you spend a lot of money on an interest or a hobby.”
That may be the case, but spending money on a hobby and buying loot boxes are fundamentally different. If I went out to buy a paintbrush, for instance, I wouldn’t pay $30 and then spin a wheel to see whether I got a solid gold brush with spider silk bristles or a moldy twig with a shredded leaf on the end.
Time will tell whether anything comes of the potential reclassification, but I hope that something does. If nothing else, I hope it kicks off a wave of other government bodies questioning the morality and legality of letting companies throw loot boxes around willy-nilly.