A study from the University of Córdoba links the consumption of ‘loot boxes’ to frequent negative emotions in games of chance, such as guilt or loss of control. Click here for the Bet22 login
Don’t steal money from your parents, don’t spend money you don’t have,” warns streamer Ibai at the beginning of a live stream from two months ago. “Calm down with the envelopes.” On the screen are five packs of the gold category for FIFA Ultimate Team. These items, which can be purchased for around 99 cents, contain random selections of soccer players: they can be high scorers or athletes with more modest statistics. And your performance in the game will depend on it.
The video of Ibai opening player envelopes has more than a million and a half views on YouTube and is an example of the interest aroused by these random content chests known in English as loot boxes . “There comes a certain point where as much as you want to keep moving forward, you can’t. This creates a disparity because the last way to achieve this is to open envelopes”, explains Francisco Javier Sanmartín, a researcher at the University of Córdoba. The study that Sanmartín has just published together with Juan Antonio Moriana and other researchers from the same institution places the format of these rewards and, specifically, the emotions that they provoke in those who consume them in a field close to that of games of chance.
“The loot boxes have a veiled mechanic that works like something similar to slot machines,” says Moriana. “You think that by throwing in a euro you can get 50 or 100, but the machine always wins.” When expectations are separated from reality, the problems begin: 45.5% of those surveyed reported guilt after the purchase. 50% admitted to having felt discomfort and 17% experienced loss of control that led to new transactions. Write for Us – Tech News, Business Updates, IT Trends, Digital Media
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In FIFA, the rewards are players of different categories; in other games it can be weapons or new options to customize characters. The higher the rarity of the item, the higher its value in the game. The prices, often less than one euro when it comes to the basic sets, limit their potential economic cost, but not the impact they have on the habits of their audience. “It is the prelude for them to get used to game mechanics with a structure very similar to that of games of chance from a very young age,” warns Moriana. Not in vain, the age group with the most video game users is the one between 6 and 24 years old.
While researchers admit that, despite indications, the phenomenon is not yet sufficiently researched to know the true extent of its effects, the loot box market makes up a growing fraction of the industry’s revenue. According to a report by Juniper Research, the profits derived from the sale of these random loot will reach 20,000 million euros in 2025. A large figure that is amassed based on small amounts: according to the work of Sanmartín, the average spending of players is 18 euros per month and rises to 43.90 euros when the platforms announce new content.
How can the board be balanced? Some titles, among which Fortnite stands out, have chosen to eliminate the random factor in these transactions: the format of micropayments within the game is maintained, but whoever chooses to buy knows what they are buying. The authorities of different countries advocate an effort of transparency that at least indicates to the user the probability that he has of obtaining valuable objects depending on the type of chest that he acquires. “It is about players knowing that what they are doing as innocent behavior is actually a game of probabilities that are far below what they believe,” continues Moriana.
In rating systems like PEGI, which identifies game content and suitable ages based on things like violence, language, and even casino and arcade simulations of gambling, there’s a label specific to point to titles that include purchases. If the game in question includes loot boxes , a note in parentheses is added: “Includes random items.” For Sanmartín it is not enough: “Since there is nothing regulated, they do not know very well what to do. Also, it is put in a very small space in the back, in the bottom corner, which is barely visible.”
Added to this is the direct or indirect promotion of these chests through channels such as YouTube or Twitch, where videos dedicated to the opening of loot boxes are a genre in themselves. “All this encourages and normalizes these behaviors in children, because they see YouTubers as people of considerable importance,” adds Sanmartín. For Moriana, this type of influence is also different from that of other content creators. “If I see an influencer with a bag and I buy it because I like it, it is a different thing. In this case, buying and gaming behavior is being introduced. A behavior model is established. The expectation of ‘let’s see what I get’ hooks”.
The researchers, however, are cautious about the level of alarm that these loot boxes should raise right now . Not because they are not worrisome, but because they simply have not been investigated enough to know the true extent of their effects and determine if it is really possible to talk about addiction in these environments. Sanmartín and Moriana underline the need to investigate the case of younger users who have already normalized this type of purchase. “We don’t know what’s going to happen when these kids are older.”