Loot Boxes In Video Games: Gaming Or Gambling


January 25th, 2019   |   Updated on August 6th, 2019

A loot box is a container you buy in a game. You do not know what’s in the container, only the fact that it contains a random item. For example, you may purchase a $1 loot box and expect a pack of energy for your game. But you do not get energy. Instead, what you receive are diamonds, which you may not find valuable.

Because of its randomness, players have no clue what they are buying. And as such, the Australian Senate convened and resolved to conduct an investigation if this is classified as gambling or not. Experts argue that it is. To them, gambling is an activity where the gambler puts a bet, or purchases a ticket, in the hopes that he will win something that has better value for his money. More about it you can find at

Those who oppose it say otherwise. The content of the loot box has the same financial value. Whether you get energy, gold, or diamonds in the game, you know that it is what you purchased.

It Can Cause Harm To People

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Pundits argue that the content of loot boxes are random and that the consumers have no idea what they are getting. This in itself is a form of gambling and forces the consumer to buy more loot boxes in the hopes that they win the exact prize they want to get.

The key element here is the element of chance. Consumers have no visibility as to what they are buying.

The contention here is that not all the contents of the loot boxes are desirable. Some contents are valued at a higher price. Some are considered as garbage rewards that players can easily earn in traditional methods.

And because there is an element of chance and that there are good wins and bad wins (like low payouts and high payouts in real money slot combinations), people in the government need to know if the activities constitute the definition of gambling.


How Gambling Is Defined

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To determine if loot boxes have the same psychological impact as to that of real gambling activities, one must put a straightforward definition to a gambling activity. This is where the expert Mark Griffith comes to the picture.

Mark is a professor of social sciences. He is a Chartered Psychologist and he is currently serving as the Director of International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. According to his research, an activity becomes a gambling activity if:

  • There is an exchange of valuable goods between two people or entities
  • The exchange of these goods is determined by an unknown future even
  • The activity offers the participants a chance to determine the outcome of the exchange
  • The people can choose not to participate to avoid incurring losses
  • The winners only gained because there are losers who lost

Essentially, many mobile games meet these five criteria from a psychological standpoint. When you buy a loot box, you are:

  • Exchanging goods
  • The goods you will get are also determined by a future event, which is the raffle
  • You have a chance to determine the outcome because these boxes have specific price ranges for different types of rewards
  • You can choose not to lose money if you do not buy
  • You will win high-value items while others will only get what is considered trash



Online Gaming Industry

So is it gaming or is it gambling? The debate will be a lengthy one. But it seems that different legislative bodies are leaning towards the latter. The one solution here is to prevent these losses and to prevent children from spending their money on unknown outcomes. The one thing governments can do is to abolish loot boxes in games. These boxes must be replaced with direct purchases in which the consumer knows what he is getting.

One of the largest game developers in the world has already taken the initiative. EA Games recently announced that it will remove all forms of loot box purchases on all upcoming releases. Other developers must follow suit or gamers and different governments may come after them.

After all, in-game purchases are made for a reason. Players want their characters to be stronger or have more advantage to win. But this should not come at the expense of buying a box with unknown contents.