Report: Loot boxes “are structurally and psychologically akin to gambling”

A new report carried out by researchers at Plymouth and Wolverhampton universities has concluded that there is a link between loot boxes and gambling, saying the in-game devices  “are structurally and psychologically akin to gambling”.

” Our review demonstrates that relationships between loot box engagement and problem gambling have been robustly verified in around a dozen studies. These draw from various nationalities and cohorts, and now include pre-registered and nationally representative samples,” states the report.

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NBA 2K took things a step further by adding slot machines and roulette wheels

The report explains that people purchasing loot boxes, including many children, are doing so due to a a ‘fear of missing out’ on special items or cosmetics. “Furthermore, players are often nudged towards purchasing via a number of well-known psychological techniques, such as endowment effects (by giving away ‘free’ loot boxes, but then charging for opening), price anchoring, special limited-time offers or items, and obfuscation of costs (i.e. via in-game currencies). ”

The UK government is set to review the Gambling Act and is already considering adding loot boxes to legislation.  The UK’s House of Lords has issued a report on the subject of loot boxes in videogames, and has concluded that loot boxes should be classed as gambling. The report also states that this classification should happen immediately.

When EA were called in to discuss loot boxes they famously said they were not loot boxes at all and were in fact ‘surprise mechanics’.

The new report from Plymouth and Wolverhampton universities advises the following:

Prospective policy should include provisions for clear definitions of loot boxes, game labelling and age ratings, full disclosure of odds presented in an easy-to-understand way, spending limits and prices in real currency, and finally, obligations of gatekeepers (i.e. developers, distributors, content providers) for the trade they enable and profit from.

Belgium was one of the first countries to ban loot boxes which caused Nintendo to close down two of its mobile titles in the country, EA removing FIFA Points from sale, Blizzard removing the option to buy loot boxes with real money, and 2K turning off the option to buy packs in NBA 2K. There has been a growing number of governments that have begun focusing on the impact of loot boxes with both Australia and the US among those nations.

Source: BeGambleAware 

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News Editor, very inappropriate, probs fancies your dad.

5 Comments

  1. It’s clear the developers etc need to alter how these things work drastically, or else they’ll have heavy handed legislation enacted by politicians who understand little about them. We all know they’re gambling, time for EA and the others to admit it too.

    • Sadly, these companies are unlikely to ever admit publicly that these mechanics are gambling, quite clearly demonstrated by EA having the nerve to label them as ‘surprise mechanics’ (admittedly, that term is hilarious and probably will be a meme for a very long time).

      Personally, I’m all for heavy handed legislation. I can’t think of any real downside to it other than publishers trying to raise the price of their games (I don’t buy new anyway so that doesn’t affect me and, in the long term, perhaps it’ll make people more likely to vote with their wallets). Anything to get us back to the days of paying an initial outlay and getting a fully completed game instead of this paying for skins bull💩.

      • Realistically, what I think will happen is loot boxes (those where your reward isn’t guaranteed) will be regulated but the publishers will just turn around and make games into more of a grind fest, so even if you can’t spend real money on the boxes you end up spending more time on the game and end up purchasing the likes of skins (which are guaranteed).

      • Yeah I think they will be phased out, like online passes were, and they’ll just find some other way of getting people to keep paying for a game they’ve already paid for. I think the 3 month battle passes are going to be in almost everything EA, Activision etc do now instead.

        I bet there are some shocking amounts people have spent on the “surprise mechanic’s” in Fifa, so I get that EA don’t want to lose out on that.

      • I liked the way you phrased that. I’m also in favour of heavy-handed legislation. For some reason there’s a widespread view that laws are bad, but if they protect customers – including children – from predatory companies then obviously they can be good.

        That surprise mechanic line is classic – you can almost see her soul leave her body as she says it. When she’s taking about how great surprises are I wanted a legislator to interrupt and say “hitting the jackpot is also a nice surprise, but it’s still gambling.”

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