Many of this fall's games, including Shadow of War, Destiny 2, and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront II, feature systems in which you can spend real money to get randomized gear in the form of loot boxes. "Real Gambling" is any sort of wagering involving real cash, while "Simulated Gambling" means that the "player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency".
In a statement to Kotaku, a spokesperson for the body that decides what kind of rating entertainment properties like TV shows, movies, and video games writes that the act of buying or selling loot boxes is not officially considered gambling. "The games sector also takes its responsibility to players, particularly children, seriously and employs various parental controls across all devices that can prevent unwanted in game purchases".
The most public controversy surround loot boxes are the possibility that its inclusion could diminish gameplay by introducing a harder, more time consuming grinding element or perhaps even offset the balance of multiplayer by introducing a pay-to-win effect.
ESRB's website notes that it has two categories for gambling: real gambling and simulated gambling.
"ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling".
For them, the concept of gambling implies the literal game of chance in which people might or might not get something in return for their money.
More seasoned experts in the world of gambling suggest that loot boxes are, indeed, the same as gambling since the items you can obtain do have value outside the game, regardless of whether you can sell them for real money within the game or not.
The UK is now considering regulation of skin gambling and loot boxes, with a review by the UK Gambling Commission ongoing as of August 2017.
While skin gambling is not seen to pose a risk to adults in the gambling community, there are concerns that this cash-for-items element is available in games young teenagers may play. "But other times you'll end up with a pack of cards you already have". Loot boxes are an entirely different beast. Even though players can pay with real money to test their luck based on the game's RNG, they are always guaranteed to receive a digital, which is likened to a collectible card scenario, wherein the players open "a pack of and get a brand new holographic card". Loot boxes or loot crates have become one of the most popular expressions of this strategy, and people have long debated whether or not they count as gambling.