2K Games is under fire after having uploaded a 2-minute gambling and loot box-rich trailer for the upcoming annual installment of its NBA 2K series. The YouTube video, which has since been taken down, was choc full of casino/gambling games, such as slot machines and prize wheels, and gamers’ public enemy #1 – loot boxes, under the guise of an NBA 2K20-unique moniker ‘card packs.’ The general response is all bad.
The 2-minute announcement trailer of NBA 2K20 featured in-game casino mini-games and loot boxes for the duration of the trailer. The fact that 2K Games chose to showcase its mini-games aimed at extracting money from its players and barely any gameplay was already enough to anger the fans of the franchise. The situation worsened, however, when critics pointed out that the game’s PEGI rating is ‘3 and up’, and its ESRB rating is ‘E’ for ‘Everyone.’ The revelation sparked the conversation of why and how such content could be deemed appropriate for young audiences.
The general argument is that the content shown in this trailer (which is assumed to be laced throughout the game) promotes gambling, and the ideas conjured by these questionable in-game mechanics could spill into real life and have a psychological effect on the minds of maturing children in. The discussion of loot boxes and loot box-like mechanics is one that has been dragging on in the video game industry for a quite some time now. The parameter introduced in this particular discussion is the age-clearance and the blatant marketing (of a mechanic that players and non-industry folk have vociferously come to oppose).
At a time, not too long before the trailer was taken down, it had amassed around a whooping 25,000 dislikes in comparison to a measly 300-some likes. With PEGI being looped into the “wrong” side of such a negative situation, it’s understandable how, out-of-the-blue, an email of theirs in response to a complaint about the age rating surfaced on Reddit.
PEGI’s verbose email established a handful of points on how they’re assessing the situation.
PEGI explained that the firm could only comment on the game based on the gameplay and other content they’ve seen, i.e., the content that’s been released to the public up until this point.
The organization clarified its current stance on its rating by explaining that for a game to warrant the ‘gambling’ descriptor, the game must include mechanics or information that teaches or encourages players to bet or gamble. It believes that NBA 2K20 does not do so, as, “Using this sort of mechanic [in-game casino-like mini games] to select an item, or character, or action by chance is not the same as teaching how to gamble for money in a casino.”
PEGI understands that the controversial content shown in the announcement trailer may have bordered too much on the showcasing of actual gambling for many people, but that the content, as it stands, does not meet their criteria for the game to be granted the gambling descriptor. The firm, however, is entertaining internal discussions about relevant industry topics like this to, “ensure that these developments [in the video game industry] are reflected in our classification criteria.”
PEGI ends the email by saying, “We will properly assess how the rating system (and the video games industry in general) should address these concerns.” Through this email, PEGI alludes to the notion that the organisation understands and is looking into the subject of loot boxes and other current industry trends and shifts, and that PEGI’s rating criteria will be altered, accordingly. It’s hard to say just how much PEGI and its rating system will influence the prevalence and use of loot boxes and borderline exploiting game-as-a-service models, but only once this “altered criteria” is in effect shall this discussion be opened again.