Are Loot Boxes Essentially Gambling?

Loot boxes were initially introduced to the platform of mobile gaming in 2004. They have mostly been placed into free-to-play titles as a form of monetisation, usually in the form of accessories add-ons: New skins for your weapons, vehicles, character clothing and such.

Mobile games have been at the forefront for potential misuse by children for many years of children as they access their parents’ phones and drop hundreds or thousands of pounds on games. They buy virtual currency, all because they want to stay at the same pace as their friends. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee this will happen.

Many may recall card games such as Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. These are physical card games which you could sell. You would buy a pack and not know what cards are in it, but you could trade them with someone else or sell them. Blizzard capitalised on this and many other virtual card games have followed. With their game hearthstone, you would buy card packs and possibly end up with the same cards, and there is nothing you can do with this card. You’ve just wasted money.

Loot boxes truly came into the spotlight with Star Wars Battlefront II, where players had to pay for “star cards” to increase their character stats, otherwise countless hours would need to be used up. This was unfair as it affected the multiplayer aspect of the game. When you’re young, of course, you want to be the best and you will convey the chances it has created, a ‘play to win’ notion. This has led to many mainstream press sites to extend the focus of micro-transactions and loot crates. Along with the Belgian Gaming Commission’s searches for gambling practices, even US Senator Chris Lee, the representative of Hawaii, has considered the game to have predatory practices, calling it a “Star Wars-themes online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.”

The same logic went into single player games, such as Middle-earth Shadow of War, where a player would have to play countless hours to be able to progress, once they reached the final chapter of the game, and need to get the best characters for the team to defeat the final boss. An alternative is to pay for a ‘war chest’ in order to potentially gain better characters or items. They finally removed this, although it should have never been put in place to start with.

Loot boxes are virtual game of chance. It’s just that simple, with there being no other possible way to see it as anything other than another form of gambling, implemented into games which those under the age of 18 are allowed to play. They are money-grabbing tools by the publisher and they can also make players feel belittled when they can’t afford these unfair advantages. It is a nature of humans, albeit arguable, to want rewards, so we may receive something great the first time and then continue to pay as much to seek for that same amazing experience of ‘Wow, I paid £5 for something that would have taken 10 hours to get.’ However, before you know it, you’ve paid £60 and it’s been a waste of money and time.

Following on that point, there are certain games, such as CS: GO, where there are sites that let you trade in-game items or currency for actual money. This leads to people willingly taking the risks as now, it’s now not just about doing better in a game, but the hopes of a better financial life. Gambling laws need to be looked at when it comes to video games. However, it will be a long debate as games are sold worldwide and it could mean that even different nations have different variations of games.

Loot boxes were initially introduced to the platform of mobile gaming in 2004. They have mostly been placed into free-to-play titles as a form of monetisation, usually in the form of accessories add-ons: New skins for your weapons, vehicles, character clothing and such.

Mobile games have been at the forefront for potential misuse by children for many years of children as they access their parents’ phones and drop hundreds or thousands of pounds on games. They buy virtual currency, all because they want to stay at the same pace as their friends. Nevertheless, there is no guarantee this will happen.

Many may recall card games such as Pokemon or Yu-Gi-Oh. These are physical card games which you could sell. You would buy a pack and not know what cards are in it, but you could trade them with someone else or sell them. Blizzard capitalised on this and many other virtual card games have followed. With their game hearthstone, you would buy card packs and possibly end up with the same cards, and there is nothing you can do with this card. You’ve just wasted money.

Loot boxes truly came into the spotlight with Star Wars Battlefront II, where players had to pay for “star cards” to increase their character stats, otherwise countless hours would need to be used up. This was unfair as it affected the multiplayer aspect of the game. When you’re young, of course, you want to be the best and you will convey the chances it has created, a ‘play to win’ notion. This has led to many mainstream press sites to extend the focus of micro-transactions and loot crates. Along with the Belgian Gaming Commission’s searches for gambling practices, even US Senator Chris Lee, the representative of Hawaii, has considered the game to have predatory practices, calling it a “Star Wars-themes online casino designed to lure kids into spending money.”

The same logic went into single player games, such as Middle-earth Shadow of War, where a player would have to play countless hours to be able to progress, once they reached the final chapter of the game, and need to get the best characters for the team to defeat the final boss. An alternative is to pay for a ‘war chest’ in order to potentially gain better characters or items. They finally removed this, although it should have never been put in place to start with.

Loot boxes are virtual game of chance. It’s just that simple, with there being no other possible way to see it as anything other than another form of gambling, implemented into games which those under the age of 18 are allowed to play. They are money-grabbing tools by the publisher and they can also make players feel belittled when they can’t afford these unfair advantages. It is a nature of humans, albeit arguable, to want rewards, so we may receive something great the first time and then continue to pay as much to seek for that same amazing experience of ‘Wow, I paid £5 for something that would have taken 10 hours to get.’ However, before you know it, you’ve paid £60 and it’s been a waste of money and time.

Following on that point, there are certain games, such as CS: GO, where there are sites that let you trade in-game items or currency for actual money. This leads to people willingly taking the risks as now, it’s now not just about doing better in a game, but the hopes of a better financial life. Gambling laws need to be looked at when it comes to video games. However, it will be a long debate as games are sold worldwide and it could mean that even different nations have different variations of games.

Tyler Denyer

Image: The Verge