Understanding the rise of gambling on gaming consoles

By William Davis


Mar 1, 2022

Reading time: 3 min

The world of trading cards has branched out into the digital realm in many different ways. For some time now, developers have looked to shoehorn lootboxes into every game they can. Due to the gambling-like elements of these boxes, several countries are considering banning or regulating them for children and younger people.

Many well-known console games such as FIFA, Call of Duty, and even games based on Star Wars and Lord of the Rings have incorporated loot boxes. For a small fee, players can get items to show off to friends or even ones that will increase their chances of winning. This can incentivize players to put a significant amount of money into games, even beyond the simple cost of purchasing it.

It’s hard to draw a clear line between this and gambling. The line gets even blurrier given the fact that some loot boxes actually draw on gambling imagery by alluding to slot machines and cards. Believe it or not, it gets even blurrier still as popular gaming franchises such as Hitman and Tomb Raider greenlight licensed slot machine and pachinko games based on their IPs. Some of these can be tried for free on $10 NZD no deposit list.

These phenomena have led to discussions about whether video games are turning children into gamblers, and about whether gamblers may find a workaround to restrictions on gambling.

The function of loot boxes

Loot boxes contain virtual items that are randomly selected and given to the player, with players having different odds for getting each item. Depending on the game, these items can provide advantages when playing such as armor, weapons, and so on. In the FIFA game, a star player who joins will join your team. When items benefit the game, this is called “pay-to-win”.

In other games like Fortnite, any extra items obtained by the player are purely cosmetic. These “skins”, as they are called, are clothes, paint jobs for vehicles, or accessories that don’t influence the game. However, these items are popular and can be available in limited quantities.

Most of the time, loot boxes can be obtained simply by playing the game, but that largely serves to whet players’ appetites into buying more with real or virtual money. 

A profitable business

For the video game industry, loot boxes are a profitable business model. These small transactions can meet or exceed the revenue generated from the actual unit sales. While this ultimately is only meant to wring a few extra dollars out of each player, the sums raised for the industry are enormous. Unfortunately, in some cases, vulnerable players spend four figures in a few months on such transactions.

In recent years, the world of video games has increasingly developed the so-called ”freemium” console, computer, and mobile games. It consists of a commercial strategy whereby the vendor offers its premium game for free to the user while allowing them to pay to improve their in-game situation.

What’s intriguing about the development of these freemium games is that about 50% of their revenue is generated by less than 0.5 percent of the players. These players, known as “whales,” may be dealing with gambling addiction in one form or another. This situation calls for better regulation of the video game sector and targeted prevention campaigns.

Loot Boxes meet the criteria of gambling in some cases

The unpredictable nature of loot boxes has brought them both success and criticism. Although players always receive a virtual object when they buy a loot box, the principle is comparable to games of chance because of the high randomness factor and uneven rewards.

However, games of chance are subject to strict legal regulations and aren’t offered to minors. By comparison, players don’t know the probability of finding the desired prize in the virtual treasure chest and people of all ages can purchase them.

Players have been able to hash out rough ideas of their chances for scoring a desirable item, but those odds aren’t good. This sees players grinding to earn loot boxes or buy many of them to get their desired item.

It’s easy to imagine how this could become unhealthy. There have been many examples of kids overextending their parents’ credit cards. This can lead to financially complicated situations for the whole family.


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