Around 4 in 10 children have opened loot boxes in games, according to a UK study published in April 2021. Popular games such as Apex Legends, Fortnite and League of Legends have sparked debate about whether loot boxes are suitable for children and whether they should be classed as gambling.
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Like a lottery in computer games
The issue is more difficult when it comes to loot boxes in computer games. The boxes work like a lottery, where the player buys a loot box through microtransactions in the game. Chance determines what is in the box. It can be a cosmetic item, such as skins, making a game character look unique.
The person buying a box does not have to be over 18 – so children and young people can use their own credit cards or borrow their parents’ to make a quick online transfer. The lottery provides an extra thrill for many, as clicking on the box rewards them with light and sound effects as the contents are revealed.
5 percent account for a large share of purchases
A study from the UK in April 2021 found that around 93% of children play computer games in some form. 40% of these had at some point opened a loot box. Only 5% of gamers accounted for half of gaming companies’ revenue from loot boxes.
The concept has been the subject of debate around the world for several years, and regulation has been discussed, with restrictions being imposed in some countries. Belgium and Netherlands are the only two countries that have introduced a ban on loot boxes as they were considered to be in breach of gambling laws.
The link between loot boxes and gambling problems
The study concluded a clear link between loot boxes and problems with unhealthy gambling for real money. The authors of the study suggest, among other things, that the odds of winning should be clearly stated, that limits should be placed on how much each player can spend on boxes, and that loot boxes should play into the age limit with which the game is labelled.
The similarities between these in-game lotteries and online slots are several, with the difference that casinos are regulated and classified as gambling. At the same time, loot boxes so far have no or few restrictions. The chance and excitement of an online casino are the same as that of opening a loot box. The question is how soon we will see a gambling law also include lotteries in computer games to protect players against addiction and major losses financially, socially and psychologically.