Gambling in Video Games: Loot Boxes, Skins, and Controversy
Game developers are in a continuous search for ways to monetize their products and make higher profits. As a result, a few years back, a new element was introduced to video games: loot boxes. Loot boxes, skins, and similar features that you can purchase within a video game are a trend nowadays, something that’s available in most of the top-rated titles in the gaming industry.
This undoubtedly makes the games richer and more engaging, but it’s also been the source of big controversies. Some countries have even instituted laws restricting the usage of loot boxes, and some have even implemented outright bans!
Why is this the case, you wonder? In this post, you’ll understand how loot boxes work, why they are controversial, and what’s their link to gambling.
What’s a Loot Box?
Simply put, a loot box is a virtual mystery box that contains one or more items. Players can buy it as a feature of their game or get it as a reward.
This is different from traditional in-game purchases because, in the case of loot boxes, the user doesn’t know what they’ll be getting when they buy the loot box. This is what creates the similarity to gambling – they create the need to keep buying and are allegedly ‘promoting addiction’.
Still, no one can really say that loot boxes are the same as casino games. The nature of casino games is pretty clear – you deposit your money and play the game to win. As long as you stay within your budget, you can have a lot of fun playing casino games. If you decide to do so, though, we recommend that you take your time to find the best $1 deposit casinos on Wagering Advisors where you can gamble safely and with the budget you have to spare.
The Controversies Around Loot Boxes
In reality, most technological advancements and innovations create somewhat of a panic. In the game industry, the creation of ‘loot boxes’ is a rather unique approach. This is one of the most profitable monetization strategies video developers have at this point, so it’s bound to raise some doubts.
Loot boxes now exist in different forms. In many cases, they are free to use, so the controversy is out of the equation. However, when a loot box requires actual payment and gives a randomised reward, it is speculated that this makes them similar to gambling and addictive.
Many will argue that loot boxes aren’t exactly gambling, and the truth is, they differ greatly from traditional gambling. The proponents of the feature claim that these are made to entertain the player and bring profits to the developers, and they are very different from gambling.
Loot boxes have been a subject of controversy for some time now, causing governments to take action – but also popular developers to remove them from their games.
Some developers have gone as far as to completely remove these features. Other games, like PUBG, have ditched paid loot boxes from their drop pool.
But most of them still keep the loot boxes because they are very profitable and extremely popular with players.
The Issue of Lootboxes and How It’s Addressed
In recent years, there have been many loot box scandals and bans. For instance, in 2018, Belgium put a strict ban on loot boxes. When this happened, players couldn’t purchase Diablo: Immortal, one of the most popular video games that year. The same game wasn’t available for sale in other countries too, like the Netherlands.
In January 2023, the European Parliament gathered to discuss issues in the gaming industry and voted in favour of a few regulations. The report from the European Commission recommended an age rating system for video games that use loot boxes, as well as standardisation across the EU.
The UK has taken some action, too. They already formed a committee that is working to revise the Gambling Act which, at this point, only regulates traditional gambling. While the report is still pending, when it’s released, it will have some suggestions regarding loot boxes.
Now, legislating a video game is much more difficult because, in their nature, these are not gambling products. Most laws define gambling games very specifically, and loot boxes do not fall into the scope of those definitions.
The truth is, loot boxes are getting trickier every year. They use specialised currency instead of actual money. This is a psychological mechanism that still costs players money, but it becomes trickier to understand the real cost of the items they buy in the surprise boxes.
The Future of Loot Boxes
Loot boxes definitely hold some elements that resemble gambling, but these don’t make video games the same as casino games. The truth is, you don’t need to purchase a loot box to play the video game; it is up to you if you want to make that investment. And it is up to you how much you will buy; the game won’t charge you more than you agreed to pay.
Players love loot boxes. In 2021, EA Games reported a profit of over $1.6 billion from extra content sales i.e. their loot boxes. It’s definitely a profitable feature that players like.
And, of course, if video game developers can charge to sell the games they produce, why shouldn’t they be able to charge for extra features purchased within the game, even if they come with a mysterious element to appeal better to the audience?
The controversies and debates behind loot boxes are stronger every day. Both sides have their points, so we don’t see how this trend will disappear in the future. However, the many attempts at regulation of these games show us that things will change in terms of how these are controlled and regulated, possibly giving users more guidance and methods to prevent problem gambling.