Lootboxes are currently a popular choice for many game developers who are looking to bring in additional revenue from an online game.
A lootbox is a game item that is usually bought for real money and then is opened by the player.
What is inside the box is random and can range from common items used in the game or contain some rare in-game item.
Lootboxes have created quite a controversy in the last 12 months. There have been a number of recent online game releases that have featured lootboxes and this sudden spike has made quite a few regulatory authorities around the world nervous about lootboxes and its impact. There have been reports of lootboxes being similar to gambling and recent studies tend to confirm those reports.
Two psychological researchers from New Zealand and Australia conducted a detailed study about the similarity between gambling and loot boxes. Aaron Drummond from Massey's School of Psychology and James Sauer from the University of Tasmania's Department of Psychology recently released their study on lootboxes called “Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling” .
The two researchers liken the way that lootboxes randomize the prizes in them to encourage players to try their luck again and again. This is very similar to the way most gambling companies and games function. This hope of a good result is called variable ratio reinforcement schedule and can be found in games that allow players to win a little while dangling the opportunity for a major prize in the future.
Drummond and Sauer came to the conclusion that there is a very strong similarity between lootboxes and gambling after they completed a survey of 22 games that featured lootboxes. The games that were researched include top games such as Call of Duty: WWII, FIFA 2018, Star Wars: Battlefront II, and more.
Lootbox Research Study Not Good For Gaming Operators
What is troubling is that a lot of these games have been approved for a young audience and children are exposed to them as a result. The two researchers discovered that 10 of the 22 games featured lootbox systems that were suspiciously similar to gambling. They all met the criteria that set gambling apart from other games of chance. This includes the exchange of money, a future event that is based on the exchange, a way to partly influence the outcome, the fact that winners gain at the expense of losers, and that a person's losses can be avoided if they did not participate.
Lootbox popularity has made them a big seller and estimates place the total sales from lootboxes worldwide to reach $50 billion by 2022 if current rate of growth continues. However, this new study can be a problem for companies who depend on lootboxes as a revenue stream and impact their revenue going forward.