Most states have strict laws against gambling, yet some players think it’s common in games. Loot boxes, sometimes known as microtransactions, have been around since the days of trading cards secreted inside packs of cigarettes. Video game loot boxes allow players to wager money on the off chance of opening something of virtual value, leading many to perceive loot boxes as synonymous with gambling due to their bright lights, microfeedback, and attention-grabbing sounds.
Despite the denial of this by the gaming industry, governments throughout the world are looking into loot boxes and creating legislation to prevent microtransactions from being used in games played by minors. But what is the general public’s opinion of them? Do players side with game designers or experience the same addictive tendencies themselves? To get a feel for how players on the other side of the controller feel about loot boxes and microtransactions, we polled one thousand of them. Read on to find out what they said.
Why Take the Chance?
Although the price of in-game microtransactions varies from game to game, 70.5% of players polled admitted to having bought a loot box in the past year. Seventy-four percent of male gamers and eighty-one percent of MOBA fans were the most likely to have made a purchase in this demographic. Even mobile gamers are getting in on the loot box action, with one-third of players admitting to having done so.
42% of players have admitted to buying a loot box only for entertainment purposes, rather than with the expectation of receiving in-game currency or a special item. Some 35.2 percent of players do so to improve their gaming experience, with another 33.2 percent doing so to give their character a unique look, and another 32% doing so to take a chance on getting an advantage.
The results of loot boxes are sometimes disappointing because there are no clear odds or regulations. So much so that 50% of gamblers felt remorse after spending real money on a game. Players’ negative reactions to loot boxes seem to be enough to warrant more regulation, such as explicit odds, no duplication, and security procedures to safeguard youngsters.
Play the Odds
When you open a loot box, you can get a new outfit or skin for your character, a different color for your weapon, or even a new dance move. Gear, weapons, and in-game currency were the most common loot box winnings, while the chances and contents of loot boxes vary from game to game. Forty-six percent of players claimed to have gotten some sort of loot from a loot box; of those, 38.3 percent got a weapon and 36.5 percent got some sort of in-game currency.
The odds of getting an emote, victory pose, or profile icon from a loot box were much lower; fewer than 20% of players were able to do so. Despite the high potential for disappointment and the wildly fluctuating odds, 47% of players said they still intended to buy loot boxes in the future.
Content of Coins
Studies estimate that by 2022, gamers will have spent roughly $50 billion on loot boxes, despite the fact that the business is already worth close to $30 billion. Some gamers have reported spending nearly $800 on loot boxes in a single month, and that’s before the proposed legislation is enacted. Our research shows that players spend anything from $5 to $500 on video games in the past 12 months. Players spent an average of $217 on loot boxes, the most popular kind of in-game purchase, but also experimented with other forms of in-game spending, such as downloadable content (DLC) and season passes.
It’s unusual to come across a video game these days that doesn’t have some sort of optional in-game purchases. It’s counterintuitive to shell out more cash for a game’s ancillary content after you’ve already paid for the main game. It’s possible that’s why Fortnite Battle Royale has so many loot boxes sold. Although many players enjoy the world’s most popular game without paying any money, 23.1% of those polled had spent an average of $63 on Fortnite loot boxes in the previous year.
While only 13.6% of League of Legends players have purchased loot boxes, 20.4% of Overwatch players have. Players spent an average of $31 on loot boxes in Overwatch during the past year, but an average of $96 on in-game purchases in League of Legends, despite there being less of the latter. Despite the popularity of League of Legends, gamers spent money on other games as well. The typical person who spent money on loot boxes in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive in the past year spent $57.
However, most players on the other side of the console saw loot boxes as being similar to gambling and predatory, despite developers claiming they helped pay off development costs and allowed games to be offered for free. Over forty percent of gamers agreed that loot boxes were both too addicting and too expensive. Only 19.3 percent of players thought treasure boxes were worth the price, and only 8.4 percent thought they reflected well on game producers.
Kids Run the Show
Loot boxes and play-to-win features are specifically targeted for prohibition in the proposed legislation because of their prevalence in children’s games. The United States and video game loot boxes have been blamed for a rise in underage gambling, but do parents support a ban on the practice? Only 36.7% of parents indicated they had bought a loot box for their kids, spending an average of $41.
However, because there is currently no oversight for in-game purchases, even minors can buy a loot box without their parents’ consent. 76.3 percent of parents reported that their child had never made an unapproved purchase, 14.1 percent reported that their child had, and 9.5 percent were unsure. Because of the high level of danger, unpredictability, and potential consequences associated with their purchase, 44% of parents think that video game makers should be banned from selling to minors.
Changes in Video Games
The concept of loot boxes has been around for well over a century. However, what began as card collecting has evolved into risk-taking in video games, drawing the attention of academics, psychologists, and policymakers. Gambling, predatory, and addicting, the wagering that is currently required to get the best playtime out of many games has become perceived as much more than an attempt to enhance business margins. Whether or whether gamers approve the proposed legislation, the gaming industry might be drastically altered as a result of players spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on products with fleeting virtual value.
Approach and Restrictions
We analyzed 1,003 responses from online surveys we sent out to American gamers. Participants in this poll were forced to answer a battery of questions designed to establish whether or not they identified as gamers. For the purposes of this investigation, participants met the following criteria to be classified as gamers:
regularly engaged in video game play
have spent at least six hours per week playing video games
had their own gaming system
Awareness of loot boxes
Those who didn’t qualify for the survey were disqualified. In addition, a question designed to see if respondents were paying attention was used to weed out those who hadn’t read the questions carefully. Of the 1,003 gamers polled, 389 were female, 608 were male, and 6 said they did not identify with either binary. Standard deviation for age was 8. The median age of respondents was 31. The sampling error for this survey was 3%.
This research has certain caveats, one of which is that loot boxes may come in different shapes and sizes (like card packs in Hearthstone) and cost different amounts in different games. It’s also possible that developers have altered the mechanics of loot boxes in games (like Fortnite’s “see-through” loot box llamas) in response to the possibility of government regulation and new laws being passed throughout the world. Video gamers were polled on their lifetime and yearly spending on loot boxes.
These statistics are the result of a self-reported survey administered on SurveyMonkey and stored in the Mechanical Turk service provided by Amazon. There are many problems with self-reported statistics that might reduce its reliability, such as attribution, exaggeration, telescoping, and recency bias. The questionnaire was constructed with an effort to minimize bias.