Loot Boxes In Video Games: Why It Is Gambling And How It Correlates With Gamstop

Are loot box a form of gambling? We analysed the pros and cons!
Loot Boxes In Video Games: Why It Is Gambling And How It Correlates With Gamstop

Have you ever bought loot boxes, card packs, gem packs, sacks, drops, or anything like these? If so, here is the question: did you get what you hoped for? Since games introduced the random loot boxes and different packages you can buy for real-world money or premium currency (also usually bought with real-world money), the question is: should we consider loot boxes as a form of gambling? In this guide, we will take a closer look at this matter, which gives the chills to players, especially parents throughout the Globe.

What are loot boxes, and why would anyone buy them?

The loot boxes are components in video games, which come in different containers, such as boxes, crates, packs, bags, etc. In such packages, the players can (well, at least they hope to) find rare items, cosmetics, skins, or other virtual goods, which could either increase their social standing in-game or even be used to show off their level of achievement. Most players can buy these using two payment options:

  • In-game currency or premium currencies: apart from the regular currencies (e.g., GTA$ in GTA Online, Credits in Star Wars the Old Republic), there are usually high-value premium currencies (e.g., Cartel Coins on Star Wars The Old Republic, Gold in World of Warcraft, Golden Eagles in War Thunder) which the players can use to buy supposedly high-value loot boxes. Players can grind to get enough of these currencies to buy packs. Still, the tasks required to scrape together enough of them take a lot of time, and it practically takes the joy from the game. Grinding isn’t for the fainthearted, so most players simply buy these currencies. These are available to be purchased for real-world money, giving them material value, eventually leading to the issue at the centre of this article.
  • Straight payment using real-world money: there are a few ways to get loot boxes in games; one is the use of money, and one is to grind and master achievements, which take a lot of time and eventually turn out to be old-fashioned grinding. To enjoy the games, players tend to use the money to buy these packs, so they don’t grind, thus losing the enjoyment factor in their gaming. After all, we play games to enjoy them, right?
loot box

Gambling on gamstop or not? - the question still remains

Gambling is easy to define: it means the player (the gambler) risks money or something of value in hopes that he will receive something of the same or higher value. It’s a risk-taking behaviour that affects the gambler psychologically, emotionally and of course economically. For example, problem gambling is alarming in the UK, and the UKGC pushed a new regulation that forces operators to watch client behaviour closely and report and handle problem gamblers. Also, UKGC introduced a popular self-exclusion system called GamStop. Although some casinos with no GamStop exclusion are still available in the United Kingdom, it is widely spread among many gambling providers. Players, who are interested in this option, just register on GamStop and all aforementioned providers do not allow them to play.


Now, if you look at this loose definition, you can see that the loot box systems are very similar: you pay with your money for a chance to get something that makes you happy and gives you a feeling of achievement in a virtual world. The visual effects when you open a box are very similar to the effects of slot machines: bright, colourful, and all the bells and whistles come through. So, yes, loot boxes are a form of gambling.

The scandal that started it all - star wars battlefront ii

The first year of Star Wars Battlefront wasn’t that great. The game still got great numbers, but the in-game loot box system caused quite a stir. These loot boxes were highly dependent on chance, and players spent thousands of dollars to get what they wanted. High-level gear and upgrades were exclusive to loot boxes, thus making - according to the players - the game pay-to-win, which is good news for those who play their games with money instead of time and skill. This is not the only game where EA offers loot boxes, for example, thousands can’t understand how they evaluate them in FIFA. But not so good news for the players who wanted to enjoy the game without suffering losses to those who bought everything (even if they couldn’t afford it) to get to the top. Later EA removed the loot boxes from the game; however, the legal, ethical and psychological issues remained. The impact was so great that now governments consider including the loot box systems and microtransactions in their gambling acts and regulations.

Easy accessibility - the biggest problem

Today, the biggest issue with loot boxes, whether in AAA PC and console titles or mobile games, is that they are very easily accessible by children. Of course, it would be the parents’ duty to ensure that their kids can’t perform any transactions or simply ensure they don’t get involved in such games. But today, the sad truth is that parents don’t pay too much attention to this, and kids can spend enormous amounts of money, and the problems come to light too late. What would be the solution? Some say the game developers and publishers should simply make their games 18+ or simply don’t include loot boxes and microtransactions. This won’t happen soon because most of the income of the games comes from these monetization techniques and not from the sales directly.

loot fortnite

You can buy the game and spend more on it just to become the best or have that awesome emote you saw in a video. As players and parents, we should pay more attention to what the kids see from us, especially if we are gamers ourselves - if they know we spend money on games, they will feel that they could too. But after all, we are the ones to pay the bills.

Money’s worth?

Back in September 2019, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in the UK stated in a report: “We consider loot boxes that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance to be games of chance played for money’s

worth.” Since this report, however, more and more people have raised their voices asking for a regulation of the loot boxes system. What looks like gambling and works like gambling should be considered gambling, and the loot boxes work exactly like that. There are some soft tries to remove the element of chance from games though: in the Epic Games game Fortnite, players can preview the content of the loot boxes before buying them. It’s a good start, but there should be an EU-wide (or worldwide?) regulation to protect at least the children.

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