The world of video gaming has evolved over the past number of years, and this has led to many additions or upgrades you can make even after the first purchase of the game. Whilst back in the day one would only pay a few tens of Euros for a game, these days you would often need to spend more on upgrades. One of the popular upgrades in this category is that of loot boxes, which have gained popularity with both young and old gamers. With loot boxes, you use real money to pay and win random virtual items such as weapon upgrades and many others. As there is an element of randomness, there has been a huge debate recently on whether these are a form of gambling, and should therefore be subjected to the same laws as are casinos. This article will look at how loot boxes operate, why they are a form of gambling, and the associated problems with them, especially for young age kids.
What are Loot Boxes?
A loot box is a virtual item that is purchased using real money and whose contents are only revealed randomly after the user has made a payment. This feature is available in games that include some popular ones such as PUBG, Star Wars Battlefront II, FIFA, and many others. The element of randomness ensures that the user may get any of the available virtual rewards, and to some extent may even be similar to the game of slots. It is estimated that this market will generate an amount of over $50 billion over 2 years which makes this market quite huge.
During gameplay, loot boxes are awarded normally during the periods of levelling up or finishing a multiplayer game without quitting.
Why are Loot Boxes a Form of Gambling?
Arguments justifying the similarity of loot boxes with gambling are that there is an element of randomness and are a game of chance in which the winner gets some prizes that have value in a virtual world, and therefore no different to chance to win games in a real world. This is a mirror image of what happens in casino games of chance. Some circles have even termed them pay to win games considering their similarity to gambling for real money online.
What is worse is that young children are exposed to such games, and may risk developing addictive and gambling tendencies from an early age. There surely is a reason why they have pegged the minimum age for gambling at the age of 18, age above which a person can make sound personal decisions. As the loot box industry is currently unregulated in some countries, there is no form of responsible gambling even if it is a form of gambling.
Looking at the sheer size of the projected market of the loot box business. When compared to other industries such as streaming services, this may even compare with them magnitude-wise.
How has Loot Box usage Increased Over the Years
2020 brought about several changes in this world, and chief being the prolonged stay of people indoors. Reports indicate that gaming thrived a lot during the lockdown, with a notable increase in usage and uptake. With such an increase, there also became a pronounced risk to more players making payments to get loot boxes.
How much have Gamers Used on Loot Boxes in the Past?
To realise the extent of prevalence of spending in loot boxes, we will look at a few examples of how much was spent by a few gamers:
- In a hearing held by several UK MPs, one user reported that they have run into debts of up to GBP 50, 000 by doing micro-transactions involving loot boxes on the game of RuneScape.
- In the same hearing, the maker of the game went on to indicate that users can spend amounts in the range of 1000 to 5000 GBP per month spent on such transactions.
It is evident from above that once hooked to the hobby, gamers can easily spend loads of money, and with no existing control measures and seemingly overwhelming loot box marketing, it is easy for hooked-up gamers to engage in endless spending.
Will Game Developers not go down with a fight?
As there are proposals in the pipeline restricting the use of loot boxes in games, the developers will no doubt not go down without a fight. Game developers have also suffered litigation from users and authorities alike, with an example being the class action lawsuit against Electronic Arts’ game of FIFA. The game developers would need to develop tools to ensure proper control and verification of age, and imposing some form of controls like those that exist in the gambling industry.
Whilst loot boxes have become popular with gamers out there, evidence suggests they are a form of gambling, and if used by kids, they present an opportunity for kids to easily get addicted to gambling. Loot boxes are a form of a game of chance in which, for real money, games have a chance to win a set of random prizes that have value in the virtual world. Cases of gamers who have made huge spending and even went into debt because of these games are classical examples of how if it continues unchecked, it is open to a lot of abuse. Additionally, as a lot of kids engage in gaming from a young age, once they make use of loot boxes, it becomes really easy for them to get addicted to this and other forms of gambling.