Gambling-addicted teen begs EA to reconsider microtransaction strategy

Meanwhile, Take-Two Interactive boss insists loot boxes aren't gambling

By Haydn Taylor.Published Thursday 30th November 2017, 10:29am GMT

An open letter to EA DICE has emerged from a self-confessed gambling addict who claims to have spent over $13,000 on microtransactions in the last three years.

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In the letter, which appeared on the Star Wars Battlefront II subreddit, user Kensgold wrote about how he took on two jobs to feed his addiction, and nearly dropped out of high school.

It all started with a free-to-play city building game where he was spending hundreds of dollars just to keep pace with his friends. Eventually it spilled over into other games and he spent as much as $1,696 on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Kensgold shared his receipts with Kotaku, showing that he spent a total of $13,500.25 on microtransactions.

Now Kensgold says that he can't buy games that feature loot boxes or microtransaction.

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"My problem stems from a deeper issue, my addiction to gambling," he said. "This addiction is a personal failing of mine and the reason I can't in good conscience buy games that offer an loot crate, at all. This is a coping strategy that I use to keep away from the temptation of opening these crates."

He finished his letter with a warning to others, stressing how fortunate he had been to come out the other side.

"I was lucky. Others like me won't be. They will fail out of school. They will use their parents' credit cards, causing massive interest and CC debit," he said

"So please take a moment to reflect on my story. You are building a game from The Star Wars universe. There will be kids playing. They will learn to love the rush of getting a good card out of a loot box. So please again take a moment to reflect. There are no laws in place to protect the youth of our nation and others like it. I was one of the many who was hurt because of that. Help me prevent it from happening to the next generation, give them the chance I never had. Say no to unregulated microtransactions. If you don't have the authority please find someone who does. Tell them about people like me and ask them for their help."

Since the letter was published, Take-Two Interactive president Karl Slatoff weighed in on the debate, saying that the company does not consider loot boxes to constitute gambling.

Speaking at the Credit Suisse's 21st Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, he said: "The whole gambling regulator thing, we don't view that thing as gambling. Our view is the same as the ESA [Entertainment Software Association] statement, for the most part. So that's going to play its course."

The position of the ESA is that loot boxes are "a voluntary feature in certain video games" and that "they are not gambling."

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"Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased," said the ESA. "In some games, they have elements that help a player progress through the video game. In others, they are optional features and are not required to progress or succeed in the game. In both cases, the gamer makes the decision."

Reasserting his position on loot boxes, Slatoff added: "In terms of the consumer noise you hear in the market right now, for me it's really all about content. It's about over-delivering on content. You can't force the consumer to do anything."

Read article on GamesIndustry.biz