If Loot Boxes are Attacked Legislatively, I'm Leaving TCGs

By Daniel Goldman | Geekers Keeps | 19 Aug 2019

Loot boxes are a popular game mechanic which generates revenue for companies that produce games. Recent legislation threatens them. But it also threatens trading card games.

I’ve been playing TCGs for a number of years. My first MTG purchase was a Return to Ravnica holiday gift box. It was a number of years after this purchase that I really started playing and collecting. I’ve spent a good amount of money on cards, and I have a solid collection now. But I’m a little

concerned by recent attacks on a seemingly unrelated topic: loot boxes.

Whenever a new law is passed or court case is decided, precedents are set. While these precedents are not themselves law, these acts can have far reaching consequences for the future. These consequences may not be obvious at first, as it requires understanding the logical consequences of what the act implies and how terms can be manipulated.

Legal Issues Surrounding Loot Boxes

In recent months, there has been a growing political movement to regulate loot boxes. Loot boxes are a common video game mechanic that helps generate revenue for game producers. Many games are free to play, but higher quality content is often available through purchase. In many cases, these items become useful, if not necessary to really enjoy the game. Loot boxes are one way to obtain these kinds of items. But instead of buying the item outright, you buy a box which may contain any number of items, of varying utility. 

Because of the random nature of loot boxes, some legislators have decided to deem them a form of gambling. Economically speaking, they could be a form of gambling, but whether this classification holds depends on the average value obtained from the purchase. If the average value is greater than or equal to the purchase price, then it’s not gambling. 

Implications for TCGs

But why would I leave trading card games (TCGs) if legislation attacks loot boxes? It’s because many TCG producers sell packs and boxes of randomly assorted cards. Many collectible games rely on this system. You don’t know exactly what you’re going to get. Some people buy a lot of packs, boxes, and even cases, in the hopes of getting a very rare card that could be worth a lot of money. 

It’s really not a huge leap from digital loot boxes to physical card boxes. There’s no inherent difference between a digital asset and a physical one. All that matters is supply and demand, and the general factors that influence them. Digital items gain their use from the systems that produce them, just as the physical trading cards gain their use from the tournaments that use them. So if loot boxes are restricted, it’s not that difficult to conclude that trading card games and other collectibles could be next. 

Even if game companies restructure the way that they sell cards, the removal of the random element could vastly reduce the amount of sales and demand for the cards. If that happens, anyone storing cards for value will likely try to flip them quickly, and prices will drop. I have a lot of cards that I hold for value. So this potential outcome is a real concern.

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

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Daniel Goldman
Daniel Goldman

I’m a polymath and a rōnin scholar. That is to say that I enjoy studying many different topics. Find more at http://danielgoldman.us

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