Games: Is NBA 2K Heading for a Loot Box Issue Like Madden?

In 2019, NBA betting lines had Take-Two Ineractive Software Inc. as the favourite game for NBA fans to play, which is why the NBA signed a $1.1 billion licensing agreement with Take-Two. While the deal that the NBA signed with Take-Two isn’t like the deal that the NFL signed with EA, which makes EA the only company that can publish a licensed NFL game, it did give Take-Two the power to dominate the market with the rights to NBA players and likenesses. However, Take-Two is in hot water for 2022 with a class-action lawsuit against them for using “loot boxes” in their NBA 2K games.

According to Take-Two’s annual sales report, NBA 2K ’21, which was released back in 2020, has sold more than 10 million copies. NBA 2K ’21 is similar to BetUS as it allows people to spend real-life money on the in-game currency that gamers can use to get new players or new clothing for players in the game’s online modes. That prompted one parent to file a lawsuit that states the loot boxes “psychologically distance” people buying them from the financial implications of using real-life money to buy them.

Targeting Children: The Case Being Made Against Take-Two

The biggest thing seen in this lawsuit is not that the NBA 2K has loot boxes, but that these loot boxes are targeted towards children. Parents and the lawyers taking up these class-action lawsuits are both saying that the loot boxes are geared to minors who don’t understand the financial repercussions of spending real-life money on the game’s virtual currency. According to the case, they also say that the minors who buy these loot boxes use their parent’s credit card and don’t realize that both credit card companies or gaming companies can’t refund their purchase back to the credit card.

While that is a problem that some think that the parents need to deal with when it comes to teaching their kids about responsibility, loot boxes being targeted towards children becomes a problem because it has been compared to gambling. Because of that, both parents and lawyers believe they have a chance in this case, as they can say the loot boxes are allowing for underage gambling of real-life money. The case being filed now is seeking at least $5 million in damages. With online sports betting websites such as BetUS, there are legal age limits that have been set and established by the federal government and state governments.

Technical Foul: The Hard Case Against Companies With Loot Boxes

While the United States government had a bipartisan group of U.S. senators that introduced a bill that would ban loot boxes in games aimed at players under 18, the bill never moved to any committee and has never been voted on. That might signal that the United States government is okay with the current status quo with gaming companies and their loot boxes. While Congress can make new laws to protect children from any type of targeted gambling towards them, courts can also press the issue, which is why we are seeing this current class-action lawsuit against Take-Two.

While these plaintiffs are taking their case to court,  the Northern District of California recently ruled on a case regarding loot boxes in games against both Apple and Google. The case against both companies had a somewhat similar theme: the games from the Apple and Google stores had loot boxes that constituted gambling elements. However, the cases against both Apple and Google were both dismissed, as the Northern District of California court said the suits against both companies lacked the merit to go forward with a ruling in favour of the plaintiff.

While Laws Haven’t Been Passed, Some Companies Have Made Changes With Loot Boxes

In the United States, there are no laws against loot boxes or how they are marketed. But in 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) raised issues about loot boxes and how they can affect the people that buy them. To counter these claims by the FTC, some companies started including the odds and chances that a person has to get a particular item before they buy the loot box.

Both Apple and Google now require games on their platform to include a disclosure with odds on the loot boxes in-game. Other companies are also following this lead in hopes that it will prevent them from any legal liability. But only time will tell if these changes will be enough.

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