Loot boxes remain a point of contention for global regulators. They’re frequently cited as gambling mechanics but are yet to be legally classified as such.
With a new class action lawsuit now brewing against Apple, we could see changes to the way store fronts sell and profit from loot box-filled games.
As AppleInsider reports, a class action against Apple is currently being proposed due to its App Store promoting and offering mobile games filled with problematic microtransactions.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court in California, alleges Apple actively promotes gambling and addiction by selling apps that contain predatory loot boxes. Important to note is Apple currently profits from these in-app purchases.
“A large percentage of Apple’s revenues from App Store games come from the in-game purchases,” the class action suit states. “Dozens (if not hundreds) of App Store games rely on some form of Loot Box or similar gambling mechanism to generate billions of dollars, much of it from kids.”
The complaint further alleges that Apple is making an illegal profit off gambling based on California law and seeks disgorgement of these profits. The case cited Australia, saying the country “recently passed new regulations” forcing mandatory age verification and other restrictions preventing minors from purchasing loot boxes. Australia hasn’t actually passed that legislation, although an upper house inquiry did recommend restrictions on loot boxes:
In relation to wagering, the Committee recommended that the Australian Government implement a regime of mandatory age verification, alongside the existing identity verification requirements. The Committee also recommended the development of educational resources for parents, and consideration of options for restricting access to loot boxes in video games, including though the use of age verification.
Several mobile games were identified in the complaint including Mario Kart Tour, Roblox, FIFA Soccer and Brawl Stars. Each game is tailored to appeal to all ages, but are particularly enticing for kids. One plaintiff stated their son spent several iTunes gift cards and additional money on loot boxes for Brawl Stars without permission.
As AppleInsider notes, the current complaint does not touch on Apple’s parental controls that would restrict a child from making these purchases in the first place. Instead, it focuses on Apple’s front page promotions of these applications and the subsequent profit they stand to make.
Also included in the lawsuit is issue with Apple’s labelling of in-app purchases. The lawsuit alleges Apple does not explicitly note when loot boxes or gambling mechanics are included in games. They are currently required to state whether in-app purchases are available, but gambling mechanisms are not detailed.
Allegedly, individual developers are also able to set their own age rating without oversight, making kid-friendly games open to predatory gambling mechanics.
A successful lawsuit would see Apple redefine in-app purchases with more specificity and give up their profit margin on apps sold via the App Store. Should the class action continue, it could have much wider implications for loot box classification in the U.S. and around the world.