These days, video game loot boxes aren’t quite as ubiquitous as they once were, but that hasn’t stopped one young player from suing Nintendo over their inclusion in the mobile game Mario Kart Tour. The suit claims that the game’s loot boxes (known as Spotlight Pipes) are a form of trickery that encourages “addictive behaviors akin to gambling.”
As reported by Axios, these Spotlight Pipes are loot boxes with undisclosed odds, and players used to be able to spend real money to activate the pipes again and again to obtain useful upgrades. (That functionality was removed last year.) The suit’s plaintiff apparently spent more than $170 on microtransactions in Mario Kart Tour. The suit alleges that Nintendo intentionally steered players towards Spotlight Pipes in order to progress in the game, a practice known as “dark patterns” that has been made illegal in Washington and California in recent years.
Nintendo replaced Spotlight Pipes with an in-game shop where players can buy the items directly last year. We’ve reached out to Nintendo for comment, and we’ll update this piece if we hear back. The Tokyo giant is far from the only company to face legal scrutiny due to loot boxes; last year, the FTC fined Epic Games more than $500 million for using “dark patterns” to encourage Fortnite players to make purchases in its online store. It’s likely that suits like these are a major part of why big games have largely replaced loot box systems with battle passes, a trend perhaps exemplified by Overwatch 2.