One of the biggest mechanics to be introduced to gaming in recent years has been within loot boxes as microtransactions have become a more common feature – but the change has had wider reaching consequences as links between the loot boxes that have been introduced and gambling have continued to grow and may be leading to changing regulation in the gaming market.
(Image from gamingtechlaw.com)
The biggest instance of this occurred back in 2013 with the popular esports title in Counter-Strike, the update brought loot crates which contained cosmetic items and combined with the existing marketplace, it provided an opportunity for these cosmetic items to be bought and sold. But it did lead to the creation of another market as it helped bring csgo betting to life, and also the growth of betting across other esports. With the CSGO skin betting and trading market totalling almost $8 billion in just a few years though, it signalled big change as the developers Valve adjusted the trading market to prevent the growth, but it had also been responsible for leading to the growth of loot boxes in other games that haven’t been as regulated, and the links between them have grown.
Much of the link had come because of the way these loot boxes are displayed – with a rolling ticker much like a slot machine and the sounds to match, it was less of a harmless additional cost for many and more of a link to gambling. Changes had been made within some games so that these boxes would appear very different, but as the changes have largely shifted to focus on fitting the regulation, there’s a lot of grey area for how to fit within the ruleset without changing too much.
Changes could be on the way though – Dutch courts recently ruled that EA would have to pay fines whilst the loot boxes remained in their popular title of FIFA and may be the first in a long list of changes as the UK is also looking at how loot boxes may have led to growing gambling amongst a younger audience. The next year will certainly be important in signalling big change as more regulation is adjusted but given the previous point around how there’s a lot of grey area in how the regulation changes impact the response, whatever changes are made need to be well thought out and robust enough, so the developers of these loot boxes do more than just a small change to ensure they fit within the regs, but not enough to lead to dramatic adjustments.