The Games Industry Should Seriously Consider Banning Loot Boxes
In the last few weeks Loot Boxes have been hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Firstly a House of Commons committee advised that they should be regulated as gambling and children barred from purchasing them. They were then condemned by the Church of England.
It’s a real shame that it’s taken the British Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to point out that the games industry is failing its players by allowing the use of Loot Boxes in games.
It’s clear that Loot Boxes can be a gateway to gambling and bad for players. Especially players that are vulnerable, those possibly with addictions already and young people unaware of the perils of gambling.
What Are Loot Boxes?
Loot Boxes in this case can be explained quite simply, you effectively pay to spin a wheel and hope to win a prize of significant value (if that’s not gambling then I am not sure what is.) The prizes players win are often not of much value but just enough to keep players interested. The payments to play are in game currencies that are the equivalent of real money. The prizes are rare in game characters, skins and weapons.
The difference from gambling, is with most Loot Boxes you are not even told the odds of winning. It preys on the psychology of ‘play and reward’ that most gamers are familiar with. And also the psychology of collecting, the need for full sets and rare items. Things that most game players are accustomed to.
What Needs To Change?
The gambling industry is often trying to blur the lines with video gaming and in this case it’s heading in the opposite direction. That developers are using Loot Boxes to make profits from young and vulnerable people is scandalous.
We as an industry should have taken steps to clean this up ourselves, we all know that it’s wrong and having the British Government point it out is damaging for the industry. The most important thing is that primarily the mechanics of Loot Boxes need to be updated so individuals can purchase the items they actually want and we lose the chance element.
What Do Indies Think?
We put the question to our IND13 audience to find out if they think Loot Boxes are good or bad, 29% said they were good where 71% of those that responded said they were bad. Though some felt that it more was needed to be done to clean up Loot Boxes rather than ban them altogether.
Twitter user and indie Steam channel curator @GrimmmUK said, “Don’t think it’s that simple, depends on the game’s economy. If it’s in a free to play game I don’t care if it costs money. If it’s a reward for gameplay in a premium game also fine, but if they offer poor rewards I can’t see players supporting the title long term.”
Twitter user and Indie studio @CitricThink said “The way we see it, the problem with loot boxes today is that they are not executed correctly. As any additional content to the game, they should add some value without being absolutely necessary to beat the game or shorten the gaming hours for the players.”
What Do We Do Next?
We can imagine for many in the games industry, when major players are making such huge profits from Loot Boxes, no one wants to put a hand up and say that they think the practice is wrong for fear of repercussions. But as an industry this practice should be eradicated.
Responsibility lands with the regulators of the games industry and the games makers who use such devices in games but the games industry as a whole needs to take responsibility. Games makers of course need to use payment mechanics that work with freemium models but this is not acceptable, we must ban the chance element from rewards and any other gambling elements if not Loot Boxes completely.
If you have an opinion on Loot Boxes then feel free to comment or write directly to us to share your opinion here