A recent study conducted in Australia has released their findings, which point to a link between loot boxes in video games and problem gambling. Loot boxes are containers in games that contain a random selection of in-game items. These have come under the spotlight recently, as governments around the world grapple with whether they should be considered a form of gambling or not.
An Australian study on video game loot boxes has determined they can cause gambling problems. It also determined they have the same psychological effects as gambling.
Loot Boxes Psychologically Gambling, Says Study
The Australian federal government commissioned the study. The study looked at 7000 video games and was put together by the Australian Environment and Communications Reference Committee (ECRC). The study found that players who regularly purchased these loot boxes had a higher chance of developing other gambling problems. Video games tend to allow players to earn these loot boxes by simply playing the game. However, players can also spend real-world money on purchasing them, to speed up their progress in the game and, potentially, gain an advantage.
Researchers found that psychologically, loot boxes produced the same results as gambling. This could also lead to the loot boxes themselves causing gambling-related problems. There have been numerous stories of people getting addicted and spending $10 000+ on these loot boxes. The ECRC has recommended that Australia make sweeping changes to its gaming regulations.
These would include banning loot boxes from games that are allowed to be played by people under the legal gambling age. In other words, any game with loot boxes would be age restricted to 18+. The report also suggests that warnings are displayed to educate people on the dangers of loot boxes.
Video Game Industry Says Loot Boxes Not Gambling
Loot boxes are big business. Activision Blizzard, which is responsible for the likes of Call of Duty, Overwatch, and World of Warcraft, made over half its revenue in 2017 from in-game purchases, like loot boxes. Its total revenue was $7.16 billion, with around $4 billion coming from in-game purchases.
The video game industry has repeatedly tried to disassociate itself from gambling. It likes to compare them to trading cards, for example. Even the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) here in America said it couldn’t classify them as gambling because players always got something out of the loot box. However, the research points to the psychological similarities between loot boxes and gambling. According to the report, they meet the psychological requirements to be classified as gambling.
Numerous countries around the world are taking a very close look at loot boxes. Numerous European countries are engaged in a joint study, which has been joined by Washington state. Some countries, like Belgium, have already decided loot boxes must go, however, some game publishers are refusing.