It's unlikely the ESRB will change its stance on loot boxes anytime soon, but hopefully publishers take note of the backlash against the heavy-handed way they've been implemented. You may be throwing real money at loot boxes and you may not be getting what you want from them - potentially tempting you to part with yet more cash - but you are getting something.
The upcoming game Star Wars Battlefront II and the recently released Middle-Earth: Shadow of War both feature loot box systems that offer players improvements on their weapons and abilities, meaning that loot boxes have a chance to give you something that gives you an advantage in the game. Even though players can pay with real money to test their luck based on the game's RNG, they are always guaranteed to receive a digital, which is likened to a collectible card scenario, wherein the players open "a pack of and get a brand new holographic card". Destiny 2 faced similar scrutiny over its own microtransaction system for cosmetic items, but the perception of real gameplay advantages has been particularly controversial.
A spokesperson for the ESRB told Kotaku that loot boxes do not qualify under either category.
Furthermore, the loot system can not fall under the gambling definition since digital items do not have intrinsic value. Some have argued that these micro-transactions represent a form of gambling that targets children especially in "freemium" games and, to those who do not have the capacity to limit themselves, can cause some serious financial harm. Merriam-Webster Dictionary keeps the definition pretty broad: "To bet on an uncertain outcome". "Real Gambling" is any sort of wagering involving real cash, while "Simulated Gambling" means that the "player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency".
A glaring issue has been pointed out by the gaming community.
We may not like it when loot boxes are twisted into mircotransaction catalysts and stuffed into our games, but we can't deny that the ESRB's response at least seems logical. This is because, in gambling, participants run the risk of walking away with nothing.