An Australian Senate inquiry into the potential harm caused by video gaming loot boxes has found “important links” between loot box spending and problem gambling and that the in-game purchase of loot boxes was psychologically akin to gambling.
The inquiry, titled “Gaming micro-transactions for chance-based items”, looked into whether the purchase of loot boxes and the subsequent ability to monetize their contents constitutes a form of gambling.
Loot boxes are essentially mystery prizes, or boxes, that can be either awarded to players during play or purchased at any time in-game. Their contents, ranging from new avatar options to special armour or weapon “skins”, can then be monetized by trading or selling to other players. However, the value of items contained within a loot box can vary significantly and is essentially a game of chance with no way for players to know the contents of a loot box until they have acquired it.
According to the inquiry, which saw lead investigators Dr David Zendle and Dr Paul Cairns examine 7,422 people, there is an undeniable link between loot boxes and problem gambling, with the duo finding that, “The more severe gamers’ problem gambling was, the more likely they were to spend large amounts of money on loot boxes.”