A recent study undertaken by the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Gambling Research shows that most adult gamers believe there is indeed a link between in-game loot boxes and microtransactions. It’s certainly not enough to form legal action over, but it does give a fascinating insight into how loot boxes are perceived.
Taking place over two phases, 144 people from North America identified as adult gamers were first surveyed, followed by 113 students at UCB. For starters, a majority of both groups were familiar with the mere concept of a loot box, which isn’t surprising. 88.9 percent of the adult gamers were familiar with loot boxes, with 94.8 percent of the students claiming the same. However, the more fascinating results came after the fact. While 68.1 percent of the original group did believe loot boxes were a form of gambling, a staggering 86.2 percent of the students revealed they thought it constituted gambling.
Having those stats in mind make the other results more interesting. Almost half of the first group, 49.3 percent, admitted to spending money on loot boxes, while 60.3 percent of the students were said to do the same. So, while a majority of both groups believe loot boxes are a form of gambling, a large number of those groups still partake in purchasing them.
However, those who had admitted to purchasing loot boxes did more than simply utilize them in-game. Loot boxes (or an item found within a loot box) were sold by 27.8 percent and 39.7 percent of the adults and students, respectively. And of those groups, 18.1 percent of the North American adults claimed to have made a profit from selling loot boxes, with more than a quarter of the students, 25.9 percent, claiming the same.
As loot boxes and in-game microtrasactions have gained greater prominence over the years, they have also gained increased scrutiny. A big point of contention is whether loot boxes, with their lack of tangible rewards (in most cases), constitute as gambling or not. A number of countries around the world, from Ireland to Belgium, have looked into the issue, with varying results. The United States government will be taking its first real look in the issue this August.
Some games have attempted to rectify concerns over loot boxes, with games like Fortnite: Save the World in particular overhauling its system to make it more transparent. The issue is so notable that a controversy surrounding Borderlands 3 and what exactly constitutes a microtransaction has emerged.