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Why Are Loot Boxes Dangerous?

Published: June 28, 2021

Online gaming continues to increase in popularity. But as their popularity increases, so does the frequency of adding in-game features that mimic gambling. Many games look and feel like traditional games, but when looking at certain features – especially loot boxes – it’s easy to see how online gaming and gambling are connected.

Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is determined mostly by chance, and the outcome has an element of chance beyond the person’s control. Loot boxes give players a chance to win in-game prizes that enhance their playing experience. Unfortunately, the “highs” and “lows” players experience after opening a box can lead them to chase their losses – a common problem gambling behavior.

Online games rely on loot boxes to make money. According to Tech Xplore, in 2020, the global gaming industry was valued at $160 billion, with $20 billion coming directly from in-game gambling tools. And more and more games are adding these paid features – nearly 60% of games in the Google Play store had some form of a loot box.

Loot boxes and other similar features aren’t required to play the game, which is why they’re commonly referred to as “freemiums.” Meaning, the game is free to play, but unlocking new features or getting more in-game currency requires real money, often leading many people to keep making these micro-purchases.

This may leave you wondering how games can justify adding these features, especially since many children and teenagers frequently play online games. Gaming companies cite rising costs to produce these games and increased market competition as reasons to keep gambling features, but the biggest reason is most likely to increase their profits.

As the number of games that offer these gambling-related features continues to grow, Before You Bet created an Online Gaming Toolkit to address this issue and offer free educational materials.

The toolkit also includes tips to ensure your online gaming habits stay responsible, such as:

  • Spending only what you can afford to lose
  • Limiting the time spent playing per day
  • Prioritizing your needs – like sleeping, eating, and socializing – before gaming

You can also assess your risk level for problem gambling with the free 2-minute quiz.

If you or someone you know may have an issue with problem gambling, call the free, 24/7, confidential Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966 or text “4HOPE” to 741741.

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