One form of digital promotion that has recently drawn attention across several states and countries is the sale of treasure chests or “loot boxes” in video games and apps. Loot boxes typically offer players a chance-based opportunity to obtain virtual items for use in a game. These in-game items may help improve a player’s chances of success in the game, or they may merely be decorative and simply give a player bragging rights based on rarity (often called “skins”).

Although the items found in a loot box often are available by “grinding,” or continuing to play the game over time, buying a loot box gives a player a chance to obtain the same item faster. In short, it can be a trade-off of time vs. money (though without a guarantee what is in any given loot box).

Loot boxes also may give a player the psychological excitement and stimulation of feeling like the player has “won” something (regardless whether the “thing” has any real-world value or utility outside the virtual world of the game). It is largely based on these psychological factors that some jurisdictions have begun to take the position that the selling of loot boxes may constitute a form of gambling – or at least warrant some form of regulation – even in the absence of prizes with real-world value being available in the loot boxes (such real-world value/prizes generally being a threshold requirement for a finding of illegal gambling under most existing U.S. precedents at this time).

In this GT Alert, we explore how certain jurisdictions around the world are addressing loot boxes. Click here for the full alert.

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