Not that the money is virtual—the money is all too real. Criminals have turned to loot boxes in video games as a way to wash money they don’t want the government to know about.
Thanks to a loophole in Counter Strike: Global Offensive, “nearly all” key purchases for loot boxes within the game have been used for money laundering, reports Vice.
“Worldwide fraud networks have recently shifted to using CS:GO keys to liquidate their gains. At this point, nearly all key purchases that end up being traded or sold on the marketplace are believed to be fraud-sourced,” Valve says.
It seems to have been the P2P trading feature that was exploited, not necessarily the organic nature or surprise mechanics of loot boxes that were the problem (although loot boxes, too, have come under fire by critics because of their allegedly addictive nature.)
This news strikes me not as a surprise, but as yet another sign that we’re living in the future cyberpunk authors like Neal Stephenson and William Gibson predicted. An exponential amount of real-world drama unfolds in the virtual world, under the purview of increasingly large tech companies, as more and more of our lives port into digital space.
Science fiction may not be an infallible oracle, but what oracle ever was?