Lootboxes May Be Here to Stay Awhile


Image via pixabay

By Colter Hendrickson


Anyone even mildly familiar with popular topics in gaming might have stumbled across lootboxes once or twice in the news. The topic seems to resurface once every few months, but there’s a reason for that.

For the uninformed or non-gaming-savvy, lootboxes are a form of microtransactions in popular online games such as Fortnite, FIFA, Overwatch, CS:GO and many other popular titles you may have seen people playing. Lootboxes are basically a digital mystery box — the buyer purchases them and receives a randomized reward when opened. This reward may vary from game to game, ranging from new weapons to a new outfit for your character or otherwise.

Lootboxes have been a hot debate in gaming over the last decade because of this randomized aspect, as many people compare it to gambling. While some lootboxes in games like Overwatch only give outfits and visual flair for your character, other games often provide improvements to your status or abilities that can affect your performance in-game. This can range from new players on a virtual sports team to better weapons in a role-playing game and can encourage people to buy if they don’t want to get left in the dust.

Lootboxes have already been banned in Belgium and the Netherlands, two countries that have deemed the practice to be against their gambling laws and thrown it off their markets. The rest of the European Union has been in hot water trying to figure out what to do with the virtual loot system, with many people trying to point to the adverse effects of gambling and how lootboxes encourage (or allow) children to gamble.

While it may be true that lootboxes follow an obvious casino-like structure — they’re designed to pull people in and keep them spending in the hopes that they will hit a jackpot of something they want — the reality is that there is no actual concrete evidence of their gambling-like effects. Much of the research that has been done is shallow at best, and no extensive documentation has been generated that proves lootboxes are akin to gambling in structure or outcome. It’s hazy at best, and a lot of countries and organizations are hesitant to jump the gun, as banning lootboxes would remove many major global game titles off of their markets or put an 18+ label on games most popular with teens under 18 — which would be a huge blow to the gaming industry.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t problems, though. There are numerous stories of people who have had bad experiences with lootboxes and their addictiveness. If you ask any experienced game designer who is willing to share a take on the issue, they will probably point out all the intricacies of lootbox design and how they’re made to pull as much money as possible out of players.

Yet even though many people and organizations demand that lootboxes be on par with casinos when it comes to regulation, there’s simply not enough proof to convict the tempting prize boxes of their crimes. When it comes to taking legal or government action against things like lootboxes, you need hard evidence of the problems it causes. But as of right now, there simply hasn’t been enough time for organizations and researchers to generate convincing proof.

So for now, no matter your perspective on lootboxes and whether they’ve affected you, the problem will stay forever clouded until a sunny day shines a light on the reality of their repercussions. And until then, don’t expect them to go away — they make a lot of money after all, and as long as they’re effective they are here to stay.


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