Loot boxes are basically how free to play games make money now, but legislatures around the world are thinking of regulating them as gambling.
Loot boxes, if you didn’t know, are purchased for real money inside games, and give players a random piece of in-game equipment. Some of this equipment is rare and powerful but most of it isn’t, meaning if you want something good you’ll probably have to buy a bunch of boxes.
Game industry reps claim this isn’t gambling. Peter Bright, writing for Ars Technica, disagrees:
Here’s the thing: loot boxes are gambling. The essential features of the transaction match those of gambling, the reward pathways and addiction mechanisms are those of gambling, and playing dumb about it, as the industry is currently doing, is a bad look.
Bright also addresses the argument that loot isn’t gambling because players always get something:
More fundamentally, this is a red herring anyway. I couldn’t claim that my roulette table, with a minimum bet of $5, somehow became “not gambling” because I promised you’d always get at least five cents back. Such a roulette table would ever-so-slightly change the economics—I wouldn’t make quite as much money—but the fundamental features of the transaction are not meaningfully altered. You pay your stake, and you get a low chance of a big payout and a big chance of a negligible one. Such a scheme would, rightly, be recognized as the gambling it is.
I recommend giving the entire piece a read, because he makes a few more great points.