There’s been a lot of talk about video games and violence lately, but that’s not the only reason the government is interested in games. The FTC is also looking into the possibility of restricting loot boxes. Several countries have already banned or restricted loot boxes, labeling them as a gambling mechanic. The US government has not taken any such action, but they may consider it in the future. During a recent FTC workshop on loot boxes some disturbing information came to light. According to a prominent figure in streaming, a publisher wanted to pay a streamer to misrepresent loot box odds.
Loot box odds may not be what they seem
Some streamers on YouTube and Twitch will air footage of themselves opening loot boxes. Publishers encourage this, and may even pay content creators to open their loot boxes. Obviously, the hope is that the streamers’ viewers will then be enticed to buy loot boxes themselves. However, what they watch on a livestream may not be an accurate representation of the game. They may be seeing fake loot box odds. Omeed Dariani, CEO of Online Performers Group, discussed these types of livestreams with the FTC’s Brittany Frassetto.
Frassetto: Based on your expertise do video games [publishers] pay these content creators to open loot boxes? Do they pay for the loot boxes? And, if so, do they at times give them better odds than the public at large? And how much of that is disclosed?
Dariani: Companies do pay for that sort of thing. It’s pretty uncommon for it to specifically be, ‘Hey, just open a bunch of loot boxes.’ But, we’ve definitely seen that. I’ve definitely been in a room where a publisher said, ‘We could do better odds on the packs that this person opens for promotional purposes.’ That’s only been one time.
Essentially, this publisher was attempting to manipulate the audience into thinking they had better odds. Dariani did not specify which company made the offer. It’s also unclear who the streamer was or if they accepted the offer. As unethical as it is, this type of practice is not currently illegal. Perhaps that will change in the future.