France has joined Belgium and the Netherlands in weighing in on the controversy of loot boxes. Its judgment, however, is a little bit like a cheap wine: lacking in substance and flavor but insisting that it’s full of nuance.
According to GamesIndustry (sourced from a French report), the Autorité de regulation des jeux en ligne — i.e., Gaming Regulation Authority, or ARJEL — has determined that loot boxes in gaming are “close enough that they normalize gambling behaviors and could instigate an early gambling addition in young people” (GI’s quote). ARJEL is calling for more analysis of loot boxes, but stops short of outright calling them gambling, because the contents typically have no real-world resale value; where they do, such as with CSGO’s skin economy, the developer and publisher are not involved in the financial transaction.
Which all sounds … OK to me? I mean, I’ve often thought that a big reason why collectible cards, whether they be baseball or Magic: The Gathering are difficult to classify as gambling is because, while anything you get from them can be sold for real money, you don’t sell them back to the manufacturer, like Topps or Wizards of the Coast. That’s different from how a lottery or casino works. If you get a winning ticket or pull on a slot machine, the lottery or casino owes you a set amount of money.
A call for gathering more information before making a knee-jerk reaction isn’t such a bad idea, either. GI said that the “Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF) has a publication on the way that will clarify rules to publishers, raise consumer awareness, and warn parents of the dangers to minors.” If I had to guess, I’d say that last part — loot boxes’ perceived impact on minors — will probably have the greatest impact on any potential laws.