If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new digital currency on the market, and it’s making waves in the gaming world: The aptly-named Gamertoken aims to serve as a universal currency for the purchase and sale of in-game items, and will bring sketchy third-party sites currently used for the trade of said items out of the shade and into the light under a single, united currency that can be contributed to cash.
This means that all your in-game items might soon be tradable for a universal currency, which means you could exchange them for an equally valuable item in another game or even pocket the Gamertoken and exchange it back into real cash.
This means all your in-game items can now be easily and directly converted into real cash.
And if this system is successful, that’s really bad news for all the publishers and companies pushing against the legislation that will classify loot boxes as gambling.
It’s a very common argument that has been used multiple times in the past to discount the practice as gambling. For a recent example, look no further than this article by PCGamer, where French regulators discounted the boxes as true gambling. According to the regulators, the practice does not count as gambling because the items traded are not worth anything in terms of real-world currency, at least officially. The sales made for those items or for the accounts containing those items is not placed under the responsibility of the publishers since they did not approve of those sales
But if Gamertoken succeeds in becoming a successful part of a larger gaming market, this argument would vanish almost instantly. The publisher, which approved of the sale of its items via Gamertoken, would be authorizing their sale for cash. And since the items were acquired via a random chance method, they would officially (and easily) be marked as gambling by many legislators around the world.
However, this isn’t necessarily a knockout blow to loot boxes altogether. There are a few possibilities by which publishers might be able to persevere in this argument.
One of those is by ensuring that no major publishers partner with Gamertoken, which would cause the currency, and the systems it offers, to fail. This move would keep underground third-party sites in operation, and strike down a system that attempts to offer a way to barter for digital goods between games. It would be a hugely anti-consumer move, but seeing as loot boxes provide publishers with such enormous profits, they might see it as a necessary one.
Another move a concerned publisher could take would be to avoid a partnership with Gamertoken themselves. If the currency does become successful, however, this could prove disadvantageous for the publisher. A shared market is a positive thing for both consumers and for publishers and developers; For the latter two, their product gets free word-of-mouth advertising via the highest-selling items being offered on Gamertoken. They also have the ability to introduce limited runs of cool new items to influence the market’s movements and get more people talking about their items.
In addition, if publishers take this route, gamers could use the presence of a game’s items on the Gamertoken market to determine whether or not that game uses randomized methods to sell their items, which could help them determine whether or not they’re interested in playing that game.
There are likely other methods publishers may look to pursue to dodge the legal ramifications of a partnership with Gamertoken, while still reaping the benefits. However, even if the popularization of the system does not force a significant legal hit on the sale of loot boxes in games, it will activate a first-party marketplace that allows creators to benefit from their creations and gamers to trade their in-game ventures for real-world cash. It’s a very pro-consumer addition to the gaming economy, and one we’d be happy to see making headlines in the near future.