Perhaps one of the last holdouts on the notion that lootboxes aren’t gambling and are ‘A-Okay’, ESA Prez Mike Gallagher took it a step further at Nordic Game Conference at Malmö Central Station in Malmo, Sweden this previous week by championing the well-hated lootbox mechanic as a source of massive revenue increases. In a long-winded, inaccurate, dry speech given to attendees Gallagher argued that lootboxes never left players upset and never “took their money without giving them something”. Belittling government authorities that have banned lootboxes in video games such as Belgium and the Netherlands, Gallagher simply called these “the lowest common denominator” and sought out to discredit those bodies which have done the research and concluded their findings that lootboxes are dangerous items that will lead to long-term addiction and gambling problems for players of games which contain them.
Many journalists, gamers, and developers have often been on the side of self-regulation for the game industry, which Ghallager goes on to promote. However, the opening up of the conversation beginning with such an avid defense of lootboxes perhaps proves that the authorities currently in place to do such self-regulation can no longer be trusted to keep the best interest of gamers in mind. Gaming has always grown massively year over year, and without the help of predatory lootbox micro-transactions that cause addiction and gambling neural pathways to develop in the human brain. This attempt to combine fear of government regulation with defense of lootboxes proves that the ESA cannot be trusted as an ally to gamers anymore.
While a good amount of this mainly empty power-point presentation from Mike Ghallager argued against lootbox regulation, there were a few other strange anti-consumer points attempting to be made as well. Simply allowing predatory or poorly designed monetization systems to roll out in mainstream games then later be patched via feedback was trotted out as a worthy solution to the current problems of the industry. A label of “in-game purchases” that doesn’t specify lootboxes from micro-transactions or expansive downloadable content was also given as a reason why self-regulation is supposedly working. Video game addiction becoming a World Health Organization classification was brought up as well as USA’s research on the potential link between mass shootings and violent video games (which ultimately ended up undecided).
Ghallager attempted to paint the picture of an innocent game industry that did nothing wrong and was under attack by the big, bad wolf. In reality, Star Wars: Battlefront II destroyed the last remaining bit of belief gamers had in the industry to self-regulate and the ESA is now unable to defend itself against government regulation due to their refusal to hold EA Games and companies like it accountable for their misdeeds. In short, it has become impossible for the ESA to speak out against defamation of the games industry by the World Health Organization and be taken seriously since they have proven they are simply shills for large gaming corporations and don’t care about their own consumers’ well-being.
If Mike Gallagher truly believes the things he said on stage this week, then he’s part of the executive abuse of game developers and video game customers going on which is a plague on this industry. If he doesn’t believe the things he said, and is “just doing his job” as many claim, then he should resign to give some one with more spine a chance to stand up to the forces controlling the ESA through special interest funding deals designed to neuter their ability to represent real gamers.