A new study conducted by researchers in the UK has found a “robustly verified” link between problematic gambling and loot boxes in video games.
The report (via BBC) was conducted by researchers at the University of Plymouth and University of Wolverhampton and commissioned by the charity GamblingAware. It took existing data and examined elements such as gender, the age of spenders, and how much revenue is provided by a smaller number of spenders.
Based on this research, the study found that up to 40% of children who play games have opened loot boxes, though it does not mention if this number includes earned loot boxes or only paid ones. It also said about 5% of players generate half the revenue from these loot boxes, meaning a small number of players are spending an exorbitant amount of money, and that younger, less-educated men are the most-likely to use them.
Spending can hit $100 per month, and with younger and less-educated people typically having less disposable income, that is a sizable amount.
A few years ago, Belgium declared that loot boxes were illegal, as they violated gambling laws in the country. There have been similar efforts to classify them as gambling in other regions, including the United States.
In response, game publishers have typically pointed out that, unlike in something like poker, you’re guaranteed to get some prize from a loot box. However, the pushback from players has still let to them becoming a little less common in AAA releases.
Star Wars Battlefront II, which released a few years ago to great controversy surrounding its loot box progression system, changed to make it a moot point before it even launched, was arguably the last straw, and the game was massively overhauled in the following months. Around the same time, similar controversy struck the single-player Middle-earth: Shadow of War, which did away with its real-money marketplace entirely.