Battle Passes vs Loot Boxes: Which is legally more acceptable?

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Two attorneys, Greg Boyd and Sean Kane, has launched a new book that offers insights into video game law, titled Video Game Law – Everything You Need to Know about Legal and Business Issues in the Game Industry.

The duo is talking in this article about the legal angles surrounding Loot Boxes and Battle Passes.

“The book has 12 chapters and it’s really aimed at the general video game audience,” says Greg Boyd who co-chairs the interactive entertainment group at Frankfurt Kurnit alongside Sean Kane. “We deliberately didn’t write a textbook in the hardcore sense of a textbook used in a law class.” Instead, each chapter of the book covers a legal topic in the video game world whether it’s game ratings, gambling, or licensing, something Kane specialises in.

Considering that an entire chapter is dedicated to gambling and video games, I asked whether we could see a similar situation play out with Battle Passes, a recent trend in video games that offer in-game rewards for completing specific milestones or in-game challenges. The way Battle Passes are designed seem to be specifically counter to loot boxes where players might not even know what kind of prizes they will win.

“People think of loot boxes as rolling a die, but the fact is that the die can be different for different players is pretty revelatory for some folks…and at a certain level maybe that feels a smidge unfair if it’s not disclosed,” says Boyd about loot boxes. “Battle Passes strike me as a substantial improvement.”

“I generally agree with Greg,” says Kane. “A lot of states allow you to win an item – pay to win an item. So, it’s based on your skill, your knowledge, your abilities. So, under that law, Battle Pass I think are much, much better…The way that most battle passes are set up I think are kind of state-of-the-art in the industry. And they shouldn’t have a reason to have regulators questioning them.”

“It’s much better than a black box mechanism where you don’t know what you’re going to get if anything,” adds Boyd. “And not to say that those are impermissible, but the battle pass systems are an improvement certainly in disclosure and are likely to hold up better under scrutiny.”

While this is an informal conversation on the topic, it’s interesting to get an opinion on Battle Passes as more and more games adopt them. Games like Rocket League and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have announced battle pass systems following the success of the programme in Fortnite Battle Royale. It is probably not a coincidence that both PUBG and Rocket League were flagged by the Dutch Gaming Commission for their loot boxes.

So are battle passes the future of the video game industry? Fortnite certainly has found success with the system and as Boyd and Kane say in our conversation, Battle Passes are in a stronger position against regulations.