Gambling…… If, like me, you play online video games in a competitive environment, you would have noticed that more and more games have a loot box system.
Loot boxes typically work by taking an in game currency and opening these boxes with a chance to get yourself that high rated gun, skin, character. The in game currency in most cases can be earned by playing the game and winning or completing objectives or, more worryingly, it can be bought through micro transactions.
This has created an environment where now, most of these games can be seen as “pay to win” where people are sinking their money into these transactions just to have the chance to open something that will give them the edge in the chosen game. Let’s have a look at the effects this is having and how it’s changing gaming.
The comparisons with gambling
So, say you are trawling online and you are looking to play roulette, you deposit say, £10 through PayPal or by entering your card details. You then go on and play and the odds are written somewhere on the screen. You’re drawn to a single number at 35/1 odds. The odds are high but the reward you get at the end earns you 35 times the bet, the classic risk vs reward.
I play FIFA 21 Ultimate Team, you are able to deposit £73 for 12,000 FIFA points in order to open packs available to you. The packs vary in the possibility of packing a monster player that will transform your fortunes in game. You highlight a pack and there is a prompt at the bottom of the screen that you press to see the odds of packing an 86+ player.
Shockingly, some of these packs cost in excess of 4,000 FIFA points to open something called an Ultimate pack which is the holy grail of packs, the chances of packing a top player is as high as it gets. Let me put this into perspective, that’s about £20 for ONE pack. Reality hits after you open the pack and the highest rated player you pack is 85 rated.
Roulette, Blackjack, Video games….. The comparisons are scarily the same.
Why it’s becoming a problem
We’ve all seen the adverts, dramas & soap operas on TV that highlight the damage that gambling addiction can do. The typical scenario, someone at a poker table, runs out of money and then puts the keys to his house in the mix, all for that high of winning a bunch of cash. In most situations the risk far outweighs the reward.
In some ways, video game loot boxes are worse, you are taking real world money and depositing it in the chosen game and if you get the desired reward, you get that item but you don’t get back the money you deposited! Any game you go on now, you are met with promotions and discounts, “BUY THIS NOW AND GET 3 HALF PRICE!!!”. Children are seeing this too and are pestering parents for card details.
When a community fights back
Sometimes, a community comes together and fights back against a developer for the ridiculous microtransactions. Enter the Star Wars: Battlefront 2 community, the game released in November 2017 with microtransactions that only used the in game currency or through crystals, these were obtainable through microtransactions in order to purchase loot boxes (Sound familiar?).
Players hated this concept and revolted against this……….
It garnered so much attention that the media criticised EA and it even went as far as the Belgian Gaming Commission launching an investigation on EA for gambling. EA eventually relented and initially suspended all microtransactions & revamped the system and brought it back in a fairer manner.
So, is it gambling?
In short, yes. The comparisons between loot box, microtransactions & normal gambling are too similar. An age old saying in regards to gambling is that “ the house always wins” and it cannot be truer about microtransactions. You pay out for these loot boxes and it lines the pockets of the game developers.
The reason Rockstar hasn’t released a new GTA game since 2013? They garnered $3,000,000,000 from GTA online alone. With Red Dead Online growing they stand to make alot more.
Remember, you are in a casino when you purchase loot boxes. If its affecting you, get help. When the stops, STOP!
Useful sites if you have been affected by this;