As lights flash and virtual fireworks erupt, a blank card opens up.
“Come on, just one time,” a young gamer yells at the screen as he opens card packs on which he has just spent $250. One elite player could change the fortunes of his virtual Madden football team.
“We got nothing,” he yells in disgust. “I honestly can’t get over how much money I just wasted.”
His frustration, captured on YouTube, was over “loot boxes”—treasure chests that gamers either earn through game play or buy with digital currency by spending real money, typically a few dollars. Each loot box offers a chance at winning digital costumes or better players that help their teams perform better.