Apple Hit With Class Action Complaint Over Loot Boxes

Apple Hit With Class Action Complaint Over Loot Boxes

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.

Comments

  • “Allegedly, individual developers are also able to set their own age rating without oversight”

    That’s fucking concerning.

    • Have you ever looked into those ratings systems? Most of them are self regulated by the industry, and have no real basis of law. The line can be a bit blurrier than that, but theres still little to no oversight. Developers can use whatever rating they feel like.

      Its just in their best interests to get it right and avoid complete Govt control like we have here. Its worked surprisingly well since the ESRB came into being in the mid 90’s, and PEGI about a decade later.

      But with any self regulated system there is always going to be some that push the boundaries, or go rogue, and rate their game a category or 2 lower than they possibly should.

    • This has been the norm for years now. There is no way a rating agency can keep up with the hundreds of apps releasing a day.

  • On one hand, if you took away the ability to generate obscene profits generated by targeting vulnerable demographics with exploitative and manipulative mechanics, the entire mobile game industry would collapse overnight.

    Hm. No second hand necessary, that sounds pretty good, let it burn.

    • It does sound pretty good cause then with any luck it might mean better visibility for the actual solid games on the platform which aren’t just pretty skinner boxes full of ads for other pretty skinner boxes!

      I mean proper labeling and searchability by IAP types could have solved a lot of the issues, but what storefront really wants to provide the option to filter views to only DLC-type IAPs when people want to ignore currency and lootbox IAPs? It’s hard enough finding anything by genre, let alone by level of customer exploitation!

      • that would be good. i have to say first and foremost i do not play games on my phone. there are a couple i install here and there, but id never consider myself a (wait for it) “mobile gamer”. but if i were to look for a good game to pass the time on my phone id would be great to have the actually good ones easily visible rather than the content farmed high ratings on the latest microtransaction simulator.
        that said. i dont see a problem with lootboxes and such existing, which gets down to the point of the article. there needs to be clearly set rules that determine the age gate of these games. and no one under the age of 18 (or your countries equivalent gambling age) should even see these games, let alone have access to them. adults however should be free to make their own choices.

        • I’m primarily a PC gamer, but do still kill a fair bit of time on my phone (fantastic for some roguelikes and card games, or some smaller scale strategy and tactics games, but so hard to find them among the idlers, clickers, and knock-off #587 of Kingdom Rush).

          I think the problem with lootboxes is how they are often implemented moreso than their existence. Fortnite’s campaign mode had a great system where loot llamas would always have usable stuff, and anything using in-game currency showed you the box contents before opening (so there was no wasting actual money for a whole lot of >0.1% chance of a specific item with no protection from duplicates)… compare that to so many mobile gatcha games which scale difficulty such that you hit exponentially unmanageable obstacles unless you sink in whatever it costs to gain ten levels of content, but then you still only have a small to medium chance of getting the needed content anyway! (plus using two or three different in-game currencies specifically to obfuscate real-world costs)

          • actully you raise a good point. gambling in australia if im not mistaken? (please correct me if im wrong) requires the odds to be defined and told to the gambler. this would be a good thing to implement (obviously based upon my previous comment that it should only be seen by adults in the first place). essentially i believe they should be treated with the same rules as pokies (im only familiar with nsw). but also it would be good if every game also set a value to each item and allowed them for individual purchase. that way you can decide if you want to spin the wheel or just buy outright.

          • oh sorry, in addition to my last comment. i should have mentioned i also dont agree with these things (lootboxes, wheelspins, any random chance) being stuck behind a pay wall of real life currency. they all should be accessible in game with the games own currency that can be earned through in game actions.

      • I handle databases for a living. All of these things from app stores to netflix libraries should be tagged to fuckery and searchable by complex, user-crafted queries, and the only reason I assume this doesn’t happen is because they’ve determined that it’s not in their financial interest for consumers to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for.

        As a result, I hate everyone and everything responsible for search pages in all applications everywhere.

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