Loot Boxes – The New Type of Gambling
Loot boxes are a form of virtual consumable items found in video games. They are usually bought or won by the player and can be opened to reveal a mystery prize. Prizes contained within the loot box depend on the game, but options can include skins to customize your in-game character or an item that gives you better stats and makes the game easier.
Loot boxes first appeared in MMO games around 2004 but have quickly spread to a lot of other online games, particularly freemium titles. While they can be a lot of fun and add a unique element to the game, there are concerns over how closely they resemble gambling. Many video games, even those aimed at younger players, now contain loot boxes, and there are fears it could be introducing a new generation to gambling.
The comparison between buying in-game loot boxes and playing any game at a casino online , is not that far off. When you buy a loot box, or any other randomly generated in-game reward, you rely on luck to get the best items. You "bet" real money and hope to "win" the best prizes.
What Are the Experts Saying?
According to researchers such as Dr Zendle, a lecturer on computer science at York University, there is a correlation between spending money on loot boxes and problem gambling. According to Zendle and his research on the subject, spending money on loot boxes could be a gateway to problem gambling in the future. This is a particular concern for parents, whose children are spending their money in order to buy these features.
There is data that seems to suggest children who are exposed to gambling early on may develop problem gambling habits later on as adults. Problem gambling is any form of gambling that can be deemed excessive or harmful, and the concern is that modern video games are forming a new generation of problem gamblers.
Loot Box Regulations
Some countries have recently started the process to ban or restrict loot boxes in games, especially those aimed at children. A survey found that two-thirds of British parliament want to see greater regulations imposed against loot boxes, and the European Union recently released a report discussing how they should be tackled.
While there is naturally a lot of alarm over the potential harm that loot boxes may cause, the exact effects are still unknown. Simply banning loot boxes in certain countries like the Netherlands and Luxembourg only resulted in consumers in those countries not having access to certain games. If countries want to make a serious effort in limiting the harm these features can have, they need to study their effects and understand how to restrict them effectively.
Are Loot Boxes Here to Stay?
The game industry has seen a lot of growth over the past few years, as better technology and online connectivity have made video games more exciting and accessible than ever. Modern video games can bring in billions of dollars of revenue for their developers and publishers, and loot boxes are just one of the many tools for maximizing profits. Free games like Fortnite still generate over $1 billion per year, simply through selling in-game items, and games that sell loot boxes have a simple way to bring in revenue long after the game has been released.
While the number of games offering loot boxes has seen a steady increase over the past few years, backlash from gamers, concerned parents, journalists, and even politicians has meant more game publishers are avoiding them in place of other forms of in-game purchases. The latest Call of Duty games were released with no loot boxes, and loot boxes were also removed from Star Wars Battlefront 2 after players complained.
It seems that with regulations over these loot boxes looming, many game publishers are beginning to rethink their strategy on how they generate revenue. Considering the potential effects it could have on encouraging problem gambling, that can only be a good thing for the video game industry.
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