New UK Research Draws "Robust" Link Between Loot Boxes And Gambling

Published: April 2, 2021 9:00 AM /


One of the loot boxes in Riot Games' MOBA League of Legends

New research carried out by two UK universities has drawn a strong link between loot box purchases in gaming and problem gambling behavior. The report claims that loot boxes are "structurally and psychologically akin to gambling".

What has this new UK research uncovered about loot boxes?

The report, entitled "Lifting the Lid on Loot Boxes", was carried out by the Universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton. It compiles pre-existing research in order to examine more closely whether loot boxes and gambling are linked. The report's findings are pretty damning. It found that of the 93% of kids who played video games, up to 40% could have opened loot boxes, with 5% of gamers generating half of all revenue made by these items. In addition, of the 13 studies included in the report, 12 found "unambiguous" links to problem gambling.


An offer of 24 loot boxes in Overwatch
Games like Overwatch make a significant amount of money from the sale of randomized loot boxes.

Young male gamers are more likely to avail themselves of loot boxes than others, with younger age and lower education both also making gamers more likely to buy loot boxes. The report says that the 5% of gamers who constitute half of total loot box revenue can spend upwards of $100 a month on loot boxes, but that doesn't mean they have that money to spare. In addition, the report states that games use a psychological "nudge" in order to push gamers towards loot box purchases, with limited offers or deals often being used to entice gamers to buy.

What conclusions did the report draw about loot boxes?

This led the report's authors to conclude that developers "appear to be generating outsized loot box profits" from at-risk gamers, but not from wealthy gamers. Recommendations made by the report include ensuring that regulation is precisely defined so as to avoid the exploitation of loopholes. The report also suggests that developers clearly divulge the odds of obtaining certain items and that they clearly state loot box items are present on box art or in age ratings.

It's a turbulent time for loot box practices in the gaming industry. Recently, the German Bundestag declared that loot boxes would be considered in age ratings for games moving forward. The UK's Gambling Health Alliance says more than 10% of young gamers are in debt because of these purchases, and studios such as EA, Apple, and Supercell have found themselves in trouble over loot box practices in various countries around the world. While developers continue to implement this system, they're going to keep attracting this level of controversy, so stay tuned for more info about this issue.

How do you feel about this issue? Are you a loot box buyer? Let us know in the comments below!



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