Loot boxes have been a part of the gaming landscape for years. They are now firmly established in most games and are a major source of revenue for gaming companies. In recent years, however, the inconspicuous boxes have come under more and more criticism. Rightly so, some say.
The danger of loot boxes
Loot boxes are a form of gambling. They often promise the chance for big prizes that far exceed the box value of the box. But how often do players actually get the item they want? How many loot boxes must be opened to draw a given prize? There are entire Twitch streams and YouTube videos that focus solely on opening these boxes. They often last for hours and quickly become a big sight.
Anyone who has grown up with video games will hardly see loot boxes as questionable. They are a fun pastime and sometimes you really get what you are hoping for. Consumer advocates, however, have a very different view. They talk about games for kids, which they are right about. Loot boxes are not just for 18+ games. So many children and teenagers are confronted with them. The bad part? Like any other form of gambling, loot boxes have the potential to be addictive. A box quickly turns into ten, the currency of the game quickly turns into real money. Many teens pour all their pocket money into virtual games. Consumer advocates will now put an end to this.
Consumer groups vs games
Loot boxes have been heavily criticized for years. But now 20 consumer groups from 18 European countries have joined forces and want to put an end to it all. The groups support a report from the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) called “Insert Coin: How the Gaming Industry Exploits Consumers Using Loot Boxes.” The report states that loot boxes are the systematic exploitation of the players.
They accuse the companies behind the boxes of covering up reality and misleading customers. Examples of methods used to achieve this include aggressive marketing, simulated time pressure and unverifiable probability of winning. The actual monetary value of the boxes is often also hidden using in-game currencies. According to consumer groups, this is a violation of the law. As examples, the report mentions “FIFA 22” and “Raid Shadow Legends”, two games that make great use of loot boxes.
The future of loot boxes in Europe
Lifting boxes are already banned in Belgium. A court found that the boxing system violated the country’s gambling laws and was therefore illegal. For example, EA no longer sells FIFA points in Belgium. The new Diablo Immortal will also not be released in Belgium because it contains loot boxes.
However, consumer groups are not calling for a total ban on loot boxes, although of course that would directly solve the problem. Instead, they call for more transparency for players and measures to protect children. Loot boxes should no longer be marketed aggressively, especially in games for children. Likewise, the actual monetary value of the boxes should be obvious so that players can make an informed decision. It is also particularly important not to present loot boxes as limited offers. This encourages spending real money instead of the often more time consuming process of making money in the game. A consumer group from Germany is also involved. Whether we will see new rules for loot boxes and virtual gaming in the future, similar to those in Belgium, will be seen soon.