Are Loot Boxes the New Gambling?

Recently, in gambling the theme of loot boxes comes up. They are added to games and removed from them, they are voiced by various analysts and experts, they are banned by whole countries. Why this topic has become so discussed right now, because before loot boxes have presented in many online casinos including: https://best-gamblingsites.co.uk, and did not cause an acute reaction? Let’s try to figure it out.


What are the loot boxes and where did they come from?


By definition, loot boxes (cases, containers, boxes) are virtual items that contain a random set of in-game loot of different value and purpose. This loot can be both cosmetic (change the appearance of armor, weapons, discover new emotions and character movements), and affect the gameplay (improve the characteristics of the equipment). Containers can be obtained during the game (in this case, to open them you need to purchase keys) or buy for real money.

loot boxes first appeared in the Chinese MMORPG and gradually moved to other games. So, in Team Fortress 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Mass Effect 3, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Injustice 2 and many other projects they are present in one form or another. The popularity of containers is due to the similarity of the mechanism of their operation with certain gambling games like roulette – and many people, including gamers, as we know, are very adventurous: the player never knows what will drop out of the box at the opening, and if he receives not what wanted, then with a high probability of being spent on another loot boxes, then another, and so on.

Of course, the comparison of technology loot boxes with gambling could not go unnoticed. So, in many countries, cases are equated to gambling with an appropriate legal settlement: for example, in Japan they are prohibited, and in China, developers are required to indicate the probability of loss of all items. Nevertheless, the existence of containers for the time being did not cause an agiotage and was not widely covered in the press (at least, it did not become the main news item for several weeks). Everything changed in 2017, when publishers decided to try a new level of pumping money out of the players.


Why loot boxes are equated with gambling?


The fact is that loot boxes can be bought. Developers do not openly talk about the possibility to receive and spend real money on the game. But on special sites you can buy or sell those things that you need for a more successful game or the domestic currency of the game. Gamers can spend a lot of money buying these loot boxes. This is equivalent to gambling rates. You make a bet and wait for how lucky you are. After all, a gamer never knows what will happen to him this time.

Australian psychiatrists and researchers want to achieve more severe regulation of such opportunities, how they cause dependence, something like ludomania. When gamers sit down to buy loot boxes, they then can not stop. Video games with the sale of loot boxes do not fall under the current definition of gambling, since officially the developers do not take money and then do not give out cash to players. Various studies have been carried out showing the psychological effect on people and explaining the development of habituation. Therefore, they have enough opponents.

On the other hand, do not consider loot boxes as a universal evil. Developers and publishers just need to more competently approach the issue of monetizing games. There is nothing wrong with spending money on cosmetic decorations of heroes and equipment in the game and thus getting the opportunity to stand out among other players. But the system of microtransactions should not turn into pay-to-win, especially in games that are sold at full cost. Lots of boxes have defenders. They believe that it is also innocent, like a football card or a kinder surprise. I would say loot boxes are more like a scratch card-type lottery. You take a card, erase the protective layer and see if you’re lucky or not.


Summing up


Some countries are seriously studying the problem of loot boxes, as young people are being actively depend on it. And some manage to spend a lot of money. Maybe in some countries it will be prohibited in the future and developers either have to refuse loot boxes or acquire a license to organize gambling. What will eventually end the story with loot boxes and what conclusions will be drawn from it – is still unknown. Obviously, publishers will not give up additional ways to monetize their games, justifying their actions by various factors. So, in defense of microtransactions, there are various arguments: for example, that, taking into account inflation, games should cost much more, and only the loot boxes save them from a rise in price, or that the income from in-game payments is spent on maintaining the health of servers. Nevertheless, the true motives of publishers are given by statistics, which says that the income from microtransactions significantly exceeds the income from the sale of basic versions of games, and at the same time is constantly growing. This is indirectly confirmed by the development of games as services: publishers profitably sell the game, and then fill it with content to which gamers regularly spend money – like loot boxes.


About the author

Tom Smith

Leave a Reply