Video Game Loot Boxes

New Form of Gambling?

Genshen Impact Characters. (Image from miHoYo)

Meron Teweldemedhin, Seneca, Dec. 09, 2022.

With loot boxes becoming more and more prevalent in video games there is a potential that they can cause gambling addiction. Andrew Mohamed is an avid gamer, and he often plays games like Genshen Impact, which utilizes both loot boxes and gacha features.

“On Genshen I used to regularly spend max $50 to $70 dollars on this game. I would only buy if anything was on sale. That’s the only time I would buy, but other than that the maximum would be $70 dollars,” Mohamed said.

Loot boxes are randomized rewards in video games like Overwatch, FIFA, NBA, Genshen Impact, and many more. Players open chests to obtain unique rewards. However, no player is guaranteed success in acquiring the best items, so some players spend real-life money and keep spending until they are satisfied.

According to gamequitters this mechanic first began popping up in the early 2010s in video games. Gamers open chests to get items like cosmetics, characters, abilities, rewards and much more. In the past, items like cosmetic effects and characters were hard to attain. Gamers had to grind out long hours in the game to get them, but loot boxes offer an easier way of acquiring these prizes.

The Most Popular Loot Box Games

Mohamed spent a considerable amount of time and money on Genshen Impact until he realized that he had to stop for his own sake. The two-year-old game has garnered 3.7 billion dollars and is one of the most popular games worldwide. The game’s most notable item is the banners. There are four banners, three of them are characters and the fourth one is a weapon banner. Every month a new character is released on the banners. The characters can either be a pyro, which is fire, a hydro, which is water, electro, which is electric, anemo, which is wind, and many more. The characters are unique and come with special abilities.

“It was too many hours into it, and it was just very taxing and exhausting, so I just had to stop,” said Andrew. Andrew had been trying to limit himself and the number of hours he had been spending on the game and after spending a lot of money on it he decided it was better to stop for now,” said Mohamed.

How Much Revenue Loot Boxes Bring In

Monetizing game items like abilities, weapons and powerful characters can potentially create a pay-to-win ecosystem. This means that players with the strongest characters and weapons in the game will have an easier time, which will make it difficult for the game to stay competitive. This can potentially affect the game if players decide it’s not worth playing anymore. Some players prefer not to spend an exorbitant amount of money on video games, especially when the game utilizes loot boxes. For some, video games are just entrainment and a stress reliever.

Alexander Vezina, an educator at York University and Chief Executive Officer at Prepared Canada Corp has written articles about loot boxes and says that Game developers will continue to utilize loot boxes until they are regulated. “The only thing that can stop a company from making money is regulation. You have to stop the method or they’re just going to do it,” Vezina said. He added, “a private sector company is generally going to whatever is in the greatest interest of making money.”

The Effects of Loot Boxes on Children

In the UK a study was conducted and it found that out of the 90% of children who play video games 40% of them have opened loot boxes, which some experts say can pose a threat to children.

“People in general are bad at evaluating risk. We tend to overestimate our positive risks and underestimate our negative risks. Everyone thinks they will the lottery, no one thinks they will be in a car accident,” Vezina said. He added, “children have even less of a point of reference for this and they can build very bad spending habits.” For Vezina, children could become victims of loot boxes because they wouldn’t understand the ramifications of purchasing the loot boxes.

Professor James Close at the University of Plymouth says that the “excitement and thrill” of opening a crate can be damaging if it turns into an addiction. It can turn into an addiction because according to Gamequitters, due to the randomness of loot box rewards it functions exactly like a slot machine.

Also, Game developers use social media to target vulnerable gamers who are susceptible to gambling. They gather data on these individuals through social media. Even McGill University’s International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors has said that gambling addiction can be as harmful as alcohol and drug addiction.

Gamers will often summon on one of the banners hoping to get a new character, but it’s randomized, so there is no guarantee they will get a new character. The chances are so low that the game developer miHoYo has developed a system called “the pity system,” which means after 90 summons you get a guaranteed gold character but it’s usually the lower-tier gold characters.

Any form of gambling is illegal in Canada unless it is licensed by a provincial government. In 2020, there was a class action lawsuit against EA for loot boxes in their video games. The plaintiffs allege that EA is breaking Canada’s criminal code of operating unlicensed

Mohamed has limited his gaming time on Genshen Impact and has refrained from playing games that utilize loot boxes.

This is a four minute video about loot boxes, focusing on the game Genshen Impact and the player Andrew Mohamed. Cheif Executive Officer at Prepared Canada Corp, Alexander Vezina, will also feature in the video.

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