If you are sick of loot boxes, prepare to also be sick of news stories about loot boxes.
Loot boxes are back in the spotlight thanks to the debacle that is Star Wars Battlefront II, and now Australian government agencies have commented on the practice.
First up is the Australian Communications Media Authority, an independent body that regulates and oversees many things including the Interactive Gambling Act – the piece of federal law that affects things like online pokies, poker website, and betting in general.
As reported by Kotaku, the Authority does not believe loot boxes constitute gambling under the Interactive Gambling Act, but it is keeping an eye on things nonetheless.
"In general, online video games, including games that involve ‘loot box’ features, have not been regarded as ‘gambling services’ under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, because they are not ‘played for money or anything else of value’," the Authority told Kotaku.
"That is, the game is not played with the object of winning money or other valuable items.
"However, the ACMA is monitoring the use of loot boxes and the use of other similar in-game mechanics that have gambling-like characteristics."
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) disagrees.
Contacted by Reddit user "-Caesar", the Commission said loot boxes do constitute a form of gambling in Victoria.
Jarrod Wolfe, a strategic analyst in the Victorian regulators' compliance division, replied. And under Victorian law as far as he's concerned, loot boxes are a form of gambling:
"What occurs with "loot boxes" does constitute gambling by the definition of the Victorian Legislation," said VCGLR analyst Jarrod Wolfe.
"Unfortunately where the complexity arises is in jurisdiction and our powers to investigate.
"Legislation has not moved as quick as the technology; at both State and Federal level we are not necessarily equipped to determine the legality of these practices in lieu of the fact the entities responsible are overseas."
Meanwhile, Queensland's statutory regulator, the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation, couldn't take a position one way or another.
"Regrettably, as a regulator of legalised gambling in Queensland, I am not in a position to definitively advise whether 'loot boxes' or similar video game features would constitute 'gambling'," the regulator's Robert Grimmond told Kotaku.
"However, I can confirm that video gaming which provides for 'loot boxes' would not fall within the meaning of a gaming machine as defined under the Gaming Machine Act."
Under the legislation, loot boxes would have to allow users to bet in-game or real world money and receive winnings from that bet to be classified as gambling.
"In view of the above, I do not consider that 'loot boxes' at the cost of real currency would constitute gambling," Grimmond said.
"As such, the OLGR would have no legislative authority to regulate or ban these products."
Unsurprisingly, US trade body the Entertainment Software Association, which represents publishers and runs E3, does not see loot boxes as gambling.
"Loot boxes are a voluntary feature in certain video games that provide players with another way to obtain virtual items that can be used to enhance their in-game experiences. They are not gambling," it told Kotaku.
"Depending on the game design, some loot boxes are earned and others can be purchased. 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."
Elsewhere, the UK Gambling Commission says that loot boxes are only gambling if the player has an ability to "cash out".
This can be done via third-party sites in games like FIFA, and it is in these instances the Commission can step in.
Earlier this year, it successfully brought the first criminal prosecution in this area in relation to Futgalaxy, a FIFA site run by Craig "Nepenthez" Douglas that allowed players to bet virtual currency earned in the FIFA games or purchased on the black market.
Gambling Commission Executive Director Tim Miller acknowledged that many parents are not interested in whether an activity meets a legal definition of ‘gambling’ – their main concern is whether a product presents a risk to their children.
"We are concerned with the growth in examples where the line between video gaming and gambling is becoming increasingly blurred," Miller said.
"Where it does meet the definition of gambling it is our job to ensure that children are protected and we have lots of rules in place, like age verification requirements, to do that.
"Where a product does not meet that test to be classed as gambling but could potentially cause harm to children, parents will undoubtedly expect proper protections to be put in place by those that create, sell and regulate those products," he added.
"We have a long track record in keeping children safe and we are keen to share our experiences and expertise with others that have a similar responsibility. Whether gambling or not, we all have a responsibility to keep children and young people safe."
Finally, French Senator Jérôme Durain has called for investigation into loot boxes in a letter to the president of French gambling regulator ARJEL.
"While I do not think it is necessary at this stage to put in place specific legislation, I wonder about the desirability of providing consumer protection in this area," said Durain (translated by Reddit).
"The use of loot boxes conferring cosmetic additions to the games seems well-accepted by the public. The development of so-called pay-to-win practices is more contentious, as shown by the recent controversy over the game Star Wars Battlefront 2.
"Quite aside from the acceptance of the practice, some observers point to a convergence of the video game world and practices specific to gambling. Prompt and sincere self-regulation of the sector would be reassuring news at a time when some players predict the imminent arrival of e-sports betting," he added.
"I am convinced that collective reflection will enable us to find a satisfactory answer to this new problem."
Last week, Belgium’s Gaming Commission said loot boxes count as gambling, and Democratic State Representative Chris Lee announced that the state of Hawaii is considering banning games like Star Wars: Battlefront II from being played by young children.
"This game is a Star Wars-themed online casino," Lee said. "It's a trap."