Loot boxes, long a source of frustration and addiction for some gamers, have become an increasingly problematic system for publishers and developers as well. Despite earning billions of dollars collectively for the games which include them, loot boxes are a font of anger and litigation as more public pressure mounts against the mechanics, which many legislators and gamers brand a gambling system.
And now, Epic Games is falling on the wrong side of the battle lines over this issue with it’s popular Fortnite Battle Royale title, which includes a loot box system. In a new lawsuit, claimants have suggested that “Epic has perfected a predatory scheme whereby it exploits players, including minors” with their loot boxes.
The relevant system in Fortnite concerns Llamas, a system by which players spend the in-game currency V-Bucks, purchased with real money, to but “loot llamas”. These randomized boxes contain various items for use in-game, and possible cosmetic items depending on the type of box purchased. This new lawsuit compared these purchases to slot machines, saying failure to disclose odds and that the system aims to “psychologically manipulate” younger players by baiting them into believing they will get lucky by winning a rare and more expensive item.
“But what Epic knows – and what its young players do not know – is that Llamas almost never contain what they are touted as containing…Worse yet, Epic fails to disclose the odds of receiving the valuable loot are next to nothing.”
Epic previously attempted to make the system a little more transparent, literally, by introducing “X-ray Llamas” in version 7.30, which allows buyers to peek inside the llamas to get a hint of what’s inside. Despite these changes, the lawsuit alleges many predatory behaviors built into the Save the World game mode which encourage spending more cash on loot boxes. The plaintiff(s) include multiple comments from Reddit threads and Epic’s forums as supporting evidence for their arguments.
And while this lawsuit might not yield any negative outcomes for Epic or others involved, loot boxes are still under intense scrutiny. Pressure of impending legal trouble in Belgium forced many companies to nix loot box systems in the region. Various titles, like Forza Motorsport 7, have removed loot boxes due to public outcry. 2K Games continues to double down on insisting that they need loot boxes in their games, angering many. Even my personal favorite ARPG, Path of Exile, gets in on the craze.
Source: The Verge