We've had a lot to say about loot boxes [arstechnica.com] in video games, and in the wake of our own reviews [arstechnica.com] and rants [arstechnica.com] about their growing prominence, regulation and public scrutiny [arstechnica.com] have followed. Researchers have entered the loot box conversation in droves as well, but a new report published by researchers on Friday seeks to answer a key question that it claims has been left untouched by other academics: why do gamers buy loot boxes?
In trying to answer that question, the report, commissioned by gambling-protection advocacy group BeGambleAware, suggests that loot box purchasing motivations are directly correlated with "problem gambling" behaviors [begambleaware.org]. That data drives the report's conclusion: regulators should apply the same rules to loot boxes that they do to other forms of gambling, because despite seeming differences, they have enough in common to merit stricter controls.
a 2019 call from UK Parliament to ban loot boxes [arstechnica.com] has so far failed to bring about wide-spread action.
In spite of potential pitfalls, the report argues that such regulations would at least address specific "money's worth" statements by game makers and provide more formal provisions for public research and education on manipulative in-game economies. Better regulation could also remind game companies that "when left with few other options (when an industry does not effectively self-regulate), these types of predatory monetization strategies are not beyond the reaches of national powers."