Loot boxes shows psychological similarities to gambling

  • Updated
  • By Hannah Timoney
Loot boxes shows psychological similarities to gambling
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A new report conducted by the University of Plymouth and the University of Wolverhampton shows significant links between loot boxes and gambling, citing a “structural and psychological likeness.” 

The report was commissioned by GambleAware, a UK charity that aims to reduce gambling-related harm, and comes ahead of the upcoming Gambling Act review. It compiled results from more than a dozen studies.

The report looked at 7,771 loot box purchasers, and showed that around half the total revenue generated by loot box sales, roughly £700 million in the UK in 2020, came from just 5% of buyers. 

GambleAware said that “a third of these gamers were found to fall into the ‘problem gambler’ category” which establishes a strong correlation between loot box spending and problem gambling. 

Ahead of the Gambling Act review, the charity GambleAware has called for new policies to be put in place, such as clear definitions on what loot box mechanisms are, enforced age ratings on the products, disclosure of the odds prior to purchasing the loot boxes, spend limits, and prices displayed in real currency as opposed to in-game currency to improve transparency. 

In response, a spokesperson at The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) said that “the UK games industry has already taken action in regards to concerns around loot boxes.”

These measures include probability disclosures being introduced to the major game platforms, a new paid random item descriptor added to the PEGI age rating system in 2020 to inform players of their presence, settings and tools on all major game devices; and a number of leading games have already integrated measure to allow players to manage, limit or turn off spend.

This report follows on from Germany, where an 18+ age rating on all video games with loot box mechanisms was recently proposed and Brazil, where the children’s association has filed seven lawsuits against major video game creators and platforms, in an effort to have loot boxes banned.

Back in November, Online Bingo spoke to Dr David Zendle about the possibility of new regulation being brought in for loot boxes, but there was, at the time, not enough evidence on the link between loot boxes and problem gambling. Now that the evidence base is stronger thanks to studies like this, it is possible that we will see new regulation brought in very quickly.