Recently, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted a daylong loot box workshop in Washington D.C., where a major management company for YouTube and Twitch celebrities discussed how publishers approach content creators candidly. Perhaps the most controversial remark is that publishers have approached clients and asked them to make content that intentionally misrepresents loot boxes. Specifically, not only did publishers pay content creators to open loot boxes on stream, but the companies would manipulate the odds to be more rewarding.
CEO of Online Performs Group, Omeed Dariani, made these remarks as he were there representing dozens of content creators, with Jose Antonio “Angry Joe” Vargas and Major League Baseball pitcher Trevor May alongside him. When asked specifics about publishers paying content creators to open loot boxes, the associated odds, and how much of that was exposed, Dariani went on to say,
Companies do pay for that sort of thing. It's pretty uncommon for it to specifically be, 'Hey, just open a bunch of loot boxes.' But, we've definitely seen that...I've definitely been in a room where a publisher said, 'We could do better odds on the packs that this person opens for promotional purposes."
It's worth mentioning that Dariani has only ever personally experienced a publisher willing to manipulate odds once, so it's unclear how extensive this specific practice is. Still, despite how popular opening loot boxes live online has become, the FTC doesn't currently require that the odds be confirmed when they are being manipulated. In contrast, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony have all signed an odd disclosure agreement to go into effect at some point in the future.
Esports publishers are the most likely to ask content creators to open loot boxes, which should be no surprise, but it's worth mentioning that Dariani's clients enjoy the work because more of their audience tunes in. “It’s exciting, right?," Dariani says, "You don’t know what’s gonna come out. You don’t know if they’re going to get the rare stuff and hey, I don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on buying my own loot boxes, so I can watch someone else do it and sort of live vicariously through them.”
Dariani also expressed concerns over Twitch and similar platforms' inadequate approach to enforcing strict disclosure stands, forcing content creators to continuously remind viewers that they're being sponsored. A proactive measure similar to an age-gate would work wonders, but despite many of the shortcomings between publishers, Twitch, and streamers, Dariani says they are very proud of their sponsorships and wouldn't voluntarily hide them.
Ultimately, it remains to be seen what comes of this FTC loot box workshop, but the general consensus seems to be there needs to be more transparency when it comes to paying streamers to do certain streams, like opening loot boxes.