One of the biggest discussions in the video game industry at the moment is around the use and sale of loot boxes within many titles aimed at a younger audience – there are those that claim the systems are luring a younger audience in to gambling, with others believing the connection is a little exaggerated, but are they the same?
There are certainly many similar aspects between the two – perhaps the most notable case of loot boxes being introduced to a game had been within the popular esports title of Counter-Strike, and had been one of the biggest culprits for the argument that they had become a glorified slot machine for many – the sound of the ticker as the cosmetics rolled by, to the style in which they would open with a scrolling banner of items you could potentially obtain certainly replicated a similar style and sound – and with the huge market that grew behind it there were many similarities to be found.
A recent move by the Dutch courts had placed a fine on gaming giant EA and their FIFA titles for similar reasons as the belief that the player packs that could be opened were a form of gambling started to gain traction – other countries have also started to gather evidence to suggest the same may be true with a possible future ban on loot boxes across many countries in an effort to curb the growing gambling pandemic amongst a younger audience.
Much of the attention comes following a period where many online services have seen a surge in new players during a difficult 2020, despite changes made to initiatives such as Gamstop and changes in the UK such as a ban on all credit card gambling and betting, many operators found here are still able to offer the same methods of play that many have become familiar with over the past few years – whether or not similar methods could be introduced to loot boxes is unlikely as it would need the game developers to get on board too, but if regulation changes occur then many may not have a choice.
There had also been other changes – displaying the odds of winning had been a major one, but other countries across Europe had also instituted changes in order for loot boxes to no longer display similar mechanics to those recognized in slot machines and did have a small impact on the way they had been perceived. It has done little to end the comparison however and will likely be a discussion that continues well in to the future – unless loot boxes are removed completely, they may remain a pseudo form of gambling within gaming, and whilst online gambling finds itself growing in popularity, the links being found between the two may continue if a growing audience of younger players look to replace one with the other – whether or not the two remain the same may not be relevant entirely, but the comparisons being drawn between the two certainly are having an impact.