New study “robustly checks” link between loot boxes and gambling addiction

New study “robustly checks” link between loot boxes and gambling addiction
New study “robustly checks” link between loot boxes and gambling addiction
A new study by researchers at British universities in Plymouth and Wolverhampton established that loot boxes are “structurally and psychologically similar to gambling.”

The news was advanced by the BBC, which cites a survey commissioned by GambleAware, a charitable organization that helps those suffering from gambling addiction. The study reached some significant conclusions:

  • Of the 93% of children playing video games, up to 40% opened loot boxes
  • About 5% of players make up half of all loot box revenue
  • 12 of 13 studies on this topic have established unmistakable links to gambling addiction behaviors
  • Young people are the ones who use loot boxes the most, with the increase of the use correlated with the young age and less education

The study also found that several games give a “psychological boost” that encourage players to buy loot boxes, in an attempt to instill fear of losing items or purchase opportunities for a limited time, a phenomenon also known as FOMO (Fear Of Missing out ).

“The study authors write that many players assign discrete financial values ​​to the content of the loot boxes – based on the purchase or resale price – suggesting that many of these mechanisms meet the existing criteria for regulating gambling.”

With regard to the 5% of players who generate half of the revenue from the loot boxes, commonly known in the medium as Whales (Whales), they spend something like 70 to 100 pounds a month, which on the one hand may not pose any problem for those who have financial possessions, but which can be a serious risk for those who have addiction problems.

The study comes to an important conclusion, but one that is not entirely unexpected: “Our research, therefore, shows that game producers, unwittingly or not, seem to generate extraordinary profits with people at risk (probably including people with gambling problems or problematic behavior patterns in video games) – but not from wealthy players.

It is the players with risky behaviors who contribute disproportionately to the profits of the loot boxes, whose risks can be equated with those of the real game.

With regard to possible solutions, the study recommends that the existence of loot boxes be considered in the classification of games, that the probability of winning specific items be revealed beforehand and the establishment of spending limits, among other things.


Pedro Pestana is addicted to gaming, coffee and volleyball, roughly in that order. You can find some of his daydreams in @pmnpestana

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