Tuesday, December 6, 2022
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Sony Taken to Austrian Court over Loot Boxes

It seems like the loot boxes debate continues to be one of the hot topics of the gaming and video gaming industries. In a recent development, Sony will appear in court for offering what some Austrians consider to be illegal gambling.

Sony Is Guilty of Allowing Games that Offer Loot Boxes

Österreichische Lotterien and Casinos Austria are Austria’s state-owned gaming monopolies. Per the country’s rules, only these two companies can offer gambling. As a result, the FIFA franchise, which offers loot boxes, might be what is considered illegal gambling.

The current situation stems from a 2021 case where an Austrian teen brought the matter to court. A year later, the lawsuit has now begun. The gamer who filed the lawsuit claims to have been harmed by FIFA’s in-game microtransactions. According to him, he “gambled” almost $400 to get the content he wanted. It was alleged that microtransactions are a form of gambling that is addictive yet unregulated.  

Since loot boxes don’t guarantee that the buyer is going to get what they want, the teen and his lawyer claim that loot boxes constitute gambling. And, since only two companies are allowed to offer gambling in Austria, this makes FIFA’s products illegal. In addition, the lawyer argued that in-game microtransactions virtually have no competition and, as a result, breach fair commerce laws.

While Sony only distributes FIFA, which is, in reality, produced by Electronic Arts, it is liable for regulating the content on its platform. As a result, the company will need to solve this matter in court.

People Are Divided over the Matter

Sony argued that loot boxes aren’t content players are forced to buy. It also pointed out that players can gather in-game points and buy loot boxes without needing to pay money. Lastly, all loot boxes provide the player with at least some reward, unlike lotteries and gambling offerings where players can lose their money without getting anything in return. With this considered, the tech giant said it disagrees with the claims that loot boxes constitute gambling.

The opponents of loot boxes, on the other hand, argue that despite being in-game-only products, loot boxes can still cause people to exhibit symptoms of gambling harm. Austrian lawyers, meanwhile, claim that loot boxes are indisputably unregulated gambling and companies that offer them should reimburse players.  

While the matter will continue to be discussed in court, it shows that people are not yet conclusive about whether loot boxes should be regulated or not. Some markets allow video game companies to offer microtransactions freely. Others have banned minors from purchasing loot boxes without the consent of their parents. Several regulated jurisdictions have outright banned loot boxes to combat harm and addiction.

Meanwhile, Sony vowed to introduce certain changes to make loot boxes less harmful. It will allow users to see the content of the next loot box they would buy. If the player decided not to purchase the box, they need to wait a whole day before being able to make another purchase.

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