Lootboxes, Gambling, and our Youth

Gaming companies across the world are all trying to cash in on one business model in particular: microtransactions, specifically “loot boxes”

A lootbox is essentially a slot machine. In games such as Destiny 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch, these winnings from lootboxes are only cosmetic, giving customization to your weapons, heroes or Guardians. However, some of these cosmetic items in these games are worth a lot more than you would think (very, very rare skins in CS:GO go for upwards of $10,000 USD).

The second type of lootbox prevalent in our gaming society is the box everybody fears: the boxes that give you an advantage over other players. Specifically in Star Wars: Battlefront 2. In these types of games, the only way to stand a fighting chance is to buy lootboxes to help upgrade your guns and characters. This would be less controversial if it were for a free to play game, but these are being implemented in $60, AAA publisher games.

People all across the world are now talking about it. Hawaiian representative Chris Lee gives a speech about the dangers of lootboxes, and how they are essentially gambling that appeals to our children. According to one study in the United Kingdom, 60% of people believe that lootboxes should be outlawed and classified as gambling. These boxes and strategies are all around us, and do not seem to be going away any time soon. So how do we regulate them?

Lots of different ideas have been going around. Some people have suggested making any game with a lootbox only purchasable by customers age 21 and above. Others have suggested to outlaw the system altogether.

From a business point of view, lootboxes are great. They bring in extra revenue on top of what the customer has already paid. But customers across the globe are now getting angry that they have to spend $30 on top of the $60 they have already paid to be able to compete in the game. But is this the pebble that will break the camels back, of the relationship between game developers and customers? Time will tell.