Should We Consider Game Loot Boxes As Gambling

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Loot Boxes

The video game industry is fighting this matter for a while now and now it looks like the UK is poised to reclassify this famous game mechanic as gambling.

House of Lords released a report on the problems that gambling causes, which discovered that in the UK there are 55,000 gamblers who are aged between 11 and 15.

In the report’s conclusions on problem gambling was the suggestion that so-called “loot boxes” in new video games be quickly reclassified by the government to fall under the 2005 Gambling Act.

Loot boxes have grown into and become a common feature in games, and no one is excited about these boxes in the game, to be honest, these boxes are not easy to use and waste of money most of the time, and not as simple to use as sky city casino payouts.

Just how they work changes from game to game, but generally they all work the same, and something like this: you buy a loot box using in-game currency or use real money, and it shakes out a random reward. These rewards usually give players some sort of skin for the character or the weapon, which can be a new item of clothing they can use for the game character for example, and don’t give them any real edge over other gamers in the game, so it’s not something you want to spend your money on.

Loot boxes can be discovered in mainstream games which include “Fortnite,” “Overwatch” and even “FIFA”.

Research from the University of York discovered in 2019 that 71% of the best and high-rated games on Steam, which is a popular platform to download games, have games with loot boxes.

In many games, players are able to exchange the rewards they receive from loot boxes with other players for real money. Loot boxes and this accompanying use of trading things are collectively identified as “microtransactions.” In 2018 a report from analysts at Juniper Research discovered microtransactions made $30 billion in sales for gaming companies or apps and now is a bigger industry than selling games itself, and predicted that the industry could be exploded to $50 billion by 2022.

The UK committee that issued the report took confirmation from Dr. David Zendle, who is a computer science lecturer at the University of York.

Dr. Zendle’s study has shown there is a relationship between paying money on loot boxes and gambling problems.

In written testimony submitted to the committee, Dr. Zendle said paying real-life money on loot boxes could be a “gateway” to the gambling problem.

In his testimony to the committee, Zendle said it may not be that loot boxes are driving people to gamble, but people who enjoy gambling already are more inclined to be attracted to loot boxes in video games.

For some researchers in the field, the data just isn’t there to support new laws.


“Trying to break a nut with this sledgehammer”

Professor Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institute acknowledged that more studies would need to be prepared to correctly classify loot boxes, and suggested that jumping to classify loot boxes like gambling is placing the cart before the horse and it is too early to say anything.

“If loot boxes are wrong I want to know why they’re evil,” Przybylski talked with Business Insider, adding that hurrying to regulate loot boxes could divert from meaningful law to actually prevent problem gambling.

“I want bad things in video games to be searched and removed. But I just get a hint people are going to congratulate themselves on the back, say ‘job done,’ and in 10 years from now there’ll be more than 55,000 problem gamblers with the ages of 11 and 16.”

Przybylski said that control of games with loot box mechanisms as gamble aspect would be “apocalyptically stupid,” as this would actually mean hitting an 18+ label on a wide range of video games that are actually for children, such as “Fortnite” and “FIFA.”

He linked the call for direct regulation with the UK’s age-verification porn block, which was introduced in 2017 and was eventually taken back in 2019 after concerns over it could be enforced ultimately scrapped the project.

“Trying to break a nut with this sledgehammer […] 5 years from now we’ll see how ridiculous it is,” he said.

Although the data on whether there’s a link between loot boxes and gambling is misleading, Dr. Zendle told Business Insider that the video game industry took this on itself when they broadly start using loot boxes and real-life money to extend the life of video games and make piles of revenue.

“Loot boxes have been very popular for more than half a decade,” he said. “Instead than able to find whether there are potential negative consequences from this widespread in-game feature, industry reps have instead engaged in what I perceive as a system of obfuscation and non-cooperation.”

“Industry actions have polluted the waters to the degree that the particular harms arising from loot boxes will likely not be recognized for many years. This gives regulators and policymakers fewer options when it comes to shielding the people they are accountable for,” he added.

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