Why Loot Box Regulations Are Vital to the Gaming Industry's Future – CBR

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Loot boxes are a trend in modern gaming that has come under scrutiny in the past few years due to shady implementation of the system by certain large gaming companies. From notable streamers to gaming journalists, industry professionals, and even other gaming companies have come forward in recent months talking about loot boxes and their generally negative impact on the industry through increasingly predatory monetization schemes.

Even governments have gotten involved, with the UK Government offering a stern warning to video game companies, and both Belgium and Netherlands actively banning games that breach their own regulations and standards on loot boxes. The gaming industry is currently at the precipice of a monumental shift in business practices and ethics, and loot boxes seem to be on the crest of that wave. Gone is the era where a strong, silent protagonist or a mind-bending plot would drive sales. So what exactly are loot boxes, and why are they so predatory?

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What Are Loot Boxes?

For those who may be out of the loop in terms of the current state of the gaming industry, loot boxes are virtual rewards that contain an undisclosed number of items that can be used in the game in which they were bought. They may contain a collection of skins, badges, or other cosmetics that let a player kit out their character, while other more sinister versions may contain items and upgrades that could be considered better than those obtained without loot boxes. The boxes are often rolled out in seasons with regular updates and additions to current content, with some being able to be obtained through active play, while others may only be obtained through in-game currency.


How Loot Boxes Take Advantage of the Vulnerable

I think it’s fair to say that the biggest problem here is its mystery appeal to children. Children may be tempted to spend money on loot boxes in the hope that they may get that Legendary Skin, Special Title, or Rare Weapon Skin. With the prevalence of multiplayer games among children, cosmetics like these could be seen as status symbols among their friends and may have even replaced achievements to some degree, further pressuring them into purchasing through time-gated and limited-time release windows. It’s not just children that are preyed upon by large companies either. Unfortunately, individuals with gambling and addiction problems are another large target for the companies, with entire strategies devised around how to manipulate and prey on these vulnerable people.


Those with addiction issues shouldn’t need to feel apprehensive every time they enter a game, in fear that a company might do them wrong. Unfortunately, the problem lies in a company’s reluctance to reveal how often specific rewards are won. Most of the time, some of the rarer rewards have such a minuscule chance of dropping that players could end up spending twice the amount they would have spent if that skin was otherwise available on the in-game store as a single purchase.

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Actions Being Taken Against Loot Boxes

The problems with loot boxes have received recognition from governments, with the Netherlands outright banning certain games that exhibit predatory practices and the UK vowing to undertake a renewed investigation into the predatory nature of the practice. Many companies have managed to slip their practices under the radars of gambling laws and regulations despite clearly being a form of gambling that targets some of our most vulnerable.


While action is being taken, unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like enough yet. Governments across the world need to protect gamers, launch investigations into loot boxes, and update their gambling laws and regulations to comply with a rapidly modernizing and increasingly nefarious video game industry. The sooner more effective action is taken, the sooner our most vulnerable members of society will be protected.


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