Are Loot Boxes Just Gaming Or Real Money Gambling?
Over the last couple of years, a new trend in video game distribution and monetization has developed. The gaming companies now often give away the state-of-the-art titles that would have once cost at least 60 bucks completely free of charge. Or, it seems so, at least. The trick is in getting players to spend real money within the game. These kinds of in-game purchases are often the only way to gain any edge in the highly competitive gaming environment.So, Are Loot Boxes Just Gaming Or Real Money Gambling?
Why Do People Feel Loot Boxes In Video Games Considered Real Money Gambling?
The most common mechanism for getting players to pony up cash is by offering “loot boxes”, scattered around in the game world. Players can purchase these loot boxes and obtain the goodies hidden within, usually new weapons or upgrades, outfits, skins, powers, or shields. However, the contents are hidden, and to see what’s inside the box, you first have to pay a real-money price, averaging around $3.
Paying A Real Money Price
In its essence, this monetization technique doesn’t differ that much from rolling the dice or spinning the slot reels. Since you have to pay beforehand, one could argue that it constitutes a gambling activity. To the people outside of the gaming world, this may sound silly, but there some serious money being spent every year on discovering the content of the loot boxes. One recent forecast predicts that, for these purposes, the gamers will spend over $50 billion in the next two years.
The issue has grown to the level that most countries are discussing it within their lawmaking institutions. One survey, conducted not so long ago, discovered that over two-thirds of members of the British parliament support the increased regulation of loot box purchases. On this side of the pond, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) proposed a bill last year that was supposed to ban the sale of loot boxes to children but it was quickly shut down.
The representatives of the gaming industry, however, reject the notion that loot boxes are a sort of gambling, claiming that the items purchased have no value in the world outside the game and can only be used for gaming purposes. Sheldon A. Evans, an assistant law professor at St. John’s University, argues that loot boxes are a game of chance and since the items have a perceived value, it should be considered gambling.
He also noted that fostering this kind of behavior with kids can often lead to serious gambling issues and addiction when they grow up.
The issue has become more serious during the Covid pandemic. As a lot of people were forced to spend more time at home, many resorted to spending hours playing video games in order to have some fun. This lead to an unprecedented surge in video game sales, totaling $175 billion in 2020, a 20% increase compared to last year. Spending on loot boxes alone has now easily surpassed the amount of money Americans spend on streaming and other video-on-demand services.
It remains to be seen how this issue will be handled over the next few years. Some games, such as Call of Duty were virtually unplayable on a serious level without loot box purchases. However, amid more vociferous criticism, the developers are beginning to dial it back a notch. The latest Call of Duty installments, Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, do not feature loot boxes, nor does the latest hit Cyberpunk 2077. Fortnite has made their loot boxes transparent last year making the purchases more similar to shopping than gambling. The ball is now in the lawmakers’ yard and creating limitations on what and how you can spend on loot boxes will go a long way in creating a safer gaming environment, especially for the young gamers.
• Source: Column: Are ‘loot boxes’ in video games a form of gambling? from Latimes.com On December 11, 2020.