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Published: April 5, 2021

Written by: web developer

  • A new report commissioned by GambleAware has proven a definitive link between loot boxes and gambling
  • The report has established that 5% of all loot box spenders are generating over half of the total revenue
  • According to one of the authors, Dr James Close, people who can’t afford to spend money on loot boxes have been investing heavily in loot boxes

A new survey commissioned by GambleAware in the United Kingdom has established strong evidence of a link between gambling and loot boxes.

Loot Boxes Are Gambling, Report Says 

A new report by the Universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton has shed light on the inherent link between loot boxes and gambling. Long a debated topic and often dismissed by game publishers, the latest report is proof that in-game purchases may be a bit too close to regular gambling.

The report used more robust wording, arguing that loot boxes “are structurally and psychologically akin to gambling.” This means that the United Kingdom may soon follow the Netherland and Belgium’s footsteps, which both banned loot boxes, arguing that the mechanics resembled gambling and exposed underage individuals to problem gambling.

With the United Kingdom currently reviewing its gambling laws, the opportunity is on the cards to seek tighter control on loot boxes. Naturally, this would most likely not appeal to game developers and publishers.

Without going into the numbers too much, the UK has seen sales surge, and gamers globally were spending around $50 million on loot box purchases as early as 2018.  

Taking the Mystery out of the Box

The nature of loot boxes has been speculated about for years now. Some have decried the boxes as gambling mechanics and dismissed them altogether, insisting that they should be regulated by the same law that controls regular gambling games, such as casinos, in check and beyond the reach of vulnerable and underage individuals.

Some publishers have tried to appease the wave of discontent by adding drop percentages to their loot boxes, i.e., the chances of an item dropping or the item are contained in any given box. That has not stopped the pushback.

The report commissioned by GambleAware has found out that some 93% of children in the country play video games, and an estimated 40% have opened loot boxes. Even more shockingly, though, only 5% of consumers drive over half of the entire sales in the market for loot boxes.

Those are dangerous levels, and if the argument that loot boxes are gambling is true, then the parallel means that there are high numbers of problem gambling going unnoticed among gamblers. 

Let’s Give You a “Nudge”

The report goes even further, arguing that loot boxes are designed in a way that gives players a “psychological nudge” to buy more. Some popular mechanics described by the report include the fear of missing out and the profuse use of limited-time-only offers.

Players are spending an average of $70 to $100 on loot boxes every month, the report continues, but the spenders aren’t necessarily well off or even able to afford to buy loot boxes:

“Our research, therefore, demonstrates that games developers, unwittingly or not, appear to be generating outsized loot box profits from at-risk individuals (these are likely to include both people with gambling problems or problematic patterns of video gaming) – but not from wealthy gamers.”


Take Care of Our Young 

Dr James Close, who is one of the authors of the joint report, has said that the link between loot boxes and “behaviors” reminding of gambling is now established. At-risk individuals, including problem gamblers and young people, as well as gamers, make “disproportionate contributions to loot box revenues.”

Commenting on the report, GambleAware boss Zoe Osmond said that her organization was concerned about how much gambling has permeated products that are targeting children and young people. 

Osmond, though, is confident that the government now has a golden opportunity to put loot boxes under a microscope and make sure that they are addressed properly. 

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