Loot Boxes strongly linked to problem gambling, new research concludes

A report by researchers at the universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton have found strong links between loot boxes and gambling.

The research has concluded that loot boxes are “structurally and psychologically akin to gambling” and that large numbers of children are spending real and in-game currency on them.

The research, which can be viewed here, was commissioned by the charity GambleAware, and it compiles existing research that examines the strength of links between loot boxes and gambling behaviour.

Some key points from the research suggest that of the 93 per cent of children who play video games, up to 40 per cent of them opened loot boxes.

The report also found that young men are most likely to engage with them, with younger age and lower education correlating with increased spending.

It was also discovered that around 5% of loot box purchasers were spending around £70 per month, generating over half of the industry revenue from loot boxes. The report confirms that one third of these spenders “fall into the ‘problem gambler’ category.”

The report also found that players are often “nudged” towards purchases via a number of psychological techniques such as “endowment effects, ‘fear of missing out’ and obfuscation of costs” and also positioned loot boxes as part of a “sophisticated choice architecture” created in order to monetise modern video games.

This report comes after the UK Government launched a call for evidence on the use of loot boxes in video games last year.

The statement which was made on September 23 2020 said the Government aims to seek the experiences of players and their parents or guardians as well as rigorous, high quality data and research from video games companies, academia, civil society as well as any other organisations with an interest in this issue”.

Earlier this year, former EA Sports president Peter Moore said that he does not view loot boxes as a form of gambling, in an interview where he compared the modes’ randomised packs to “collecting cigarette cards in the 1920s and ’30s.”

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