Game companies now lean heavily on loot boxes to monetize their products. Legislators around the world are threatening to impose regulations on the boxes, claiming that they’re gambling. Industry groups, however, insist that the boxes are not.
I play games that are funded with loot boxes. My favorite game of all time, Dota 2, is funded almost exclusively through loot boxes. Regulations that tightly restrict or absolutely prohibit loot boxes will definitely hurt the gaming industry and will hurt, perhaps even fatally, games I love. There will definitely be economic harm, and games companies will have to figure something out to fill the monetary gap. It’s no surprise that game companies are defending the practice.
But here’s the thing: loot boxes are gambling. The essential features of the transaction match those of gambling, the reward pathways and addiction mechanisms are those of gambling, and playing dumb about it, as the industry is currently doing, is a bad look.
I wholeheartedly agree. Loot boxes in gaming lead to real addictions and all its associated problems, and while I’m never a fan of outright bans – I’m Dutch, after all – I do think we need to have an honest and open discussion about protecting especially younger and more vulnerable people from the effects of gambling.