Lootboxes In Video Games Is It Gambling Or Not?
Innovative game mechanics and systems of upgrading have always been a huge factor in video games and things are slowly evolving onto the next level. Games like Eve Online or any prominent MMOG out there have created an in-game economy and a Universe of its own for players to indulge. These innovations were precursors of the lootbox mechanism and in-game monetization that sparked some controversy in recent years. There are some who defend it but also those who claim that loot boxing is one cleverly concealed form of gambling that has no place in gaming. We will try to wage arguments for and against this opinion.
We already mentioned Eve Online as a perfect example of creating a micro-economy within the game. Players love upgrading their ships and weapons as it gives them an advantage over their adversaries. This comes at a price of course but when faced with their dwindling fan base, producers decided to introduce more free options into this game which should have been the first clue for other developers. If you played video games like Sims you know that simoleons are symbolic currency and custom content cannot be sold like real furniture, but some people are definitely creating some beautiful items. This is because there are those willing to buy them, and where is demand the supply will follow.
Everybody remember Zynga poker or Star Trek Online who revolutionizes microtransactions and lootbox mechanism. This has been justified as an incentive to attract more players by giving them an opportunity to outgun their opponent by investing in their upgrades. This is that moment where skeptics start claiming that the whole thing starts resembling am online casino. People who feel incentive act on it, and if there is something to be gained it becomes a powerful driving force and a psychological mechanism that drives cash flow. New weapons, new skills, new upgrades, or heroes with special abilities, it is all available for a price of course.
It seemed that this new concept of the in-game economy is something that is here to stay and evolve until it faces some serious criticism. Players have essentially boycotted video games like Star Wars: Battlefront for apparent excessive use of the lootbox system as they felt like it was not providing a level playing field for everyone. Gamers spoke with their wallets and as sales dropped immensely, developers started reassessing their situation and the future use of star cards and crystal currency. It is only after losing billions in revenue that they became opened for new ideas and opened some new slots in their way of thinking.
Some great reviews saved Battlefront but a great review will not fix any ongoing issue. Players have spoken and if they think that the best game resembles the best casino in some way, it is a red flag for the whole industry. Imagine if Lucky Nugget review described a casino as a money-draining application. It just wouldn’t be good for business. The fact stays that players themselves have cited the lootbox system as an incentive for players to buy more stuff with their own money. This backfired and started a chain reaction resulting in some changes in the gameplay mechanism.
The lootbox mechanism is not dead, in fact, it is more present than ever in video games today but it seems that only blockbuster titles risk being affected by a widespread boycott because they have some pretty hard-core fan base. Pristine old games that predate this innovative concept do not have to defend themselves for resembling a gambling parlor but the ones that are still in development will have to make a choice whether to incorporate loot boxing into their game design.