Gamers have spent thousands on CS:GO skin gambling and unlocking of FIFA characters, developing serious gambling addictions, which leads to burning all of their money. Some people have reportedly spent over 17 thousand dollars on in-game purchases, nearly ruining their lives.
Monetization ranges in all shapes, sizes, and forms, from a few little ads in a free game to simply making you purchase the game. But game designers have found ways to make far more money from games than they ever could just by selling copies of the game itself. Selling in-game loot boxes have proved lucrative for developers. In 2018, loot boxes alone made 30 billion dollars and the numbers will only grow. But they are incredibly controversial, having resulted in lawsuits and billions of dollars wasted.
When gambling becomes accessible to children, or gives you advantages in a multiplayer game, that is when it becomes a problem. For children, it may cause underage gambling addictions, leading to poor habits later on in life.
Some early notable examples of loot boxes in video games include FIFA 09 which allowed players to create teams of players obtained from card packs which could either be purchased through in-game currency or microtransactions. The game Team Fortress 2, uses a system where crates are abundant and easy to get, despite the fact that keys to open the crates require you to purchase or trade for them. Unlocking a crate in a game may get you an item you can sell for a lot, making it gambling.
The Dutch and Belgian governments have taken action against loot boxes, making them impossible to purchase in Overwatch and NBA 2K or open cases and crates in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Team Fortress 2.
The beta version of Battlefront II was highly criticised for its use of loot boxes, and that you have to spend money to obtain characters. EA decided to respond to the criticism, by making it so characters and other loot could be unlocked through achievements and purchases. That also made players spend possibly hundreds of hours in games to unlock most things in the game. Just before, launch EA and DICE decided to disable microtransactions entirely until they could figure out a better solution. Apparently Disney, the owner of the franchise requested the patch because a lot of kids like Star Wars and as profitable as it is, they don’t want kids gaining a gambling addiction.
Did I mention that the game was almost $80 Cdn at the time?
After numerous patches and the removal of microtransactions, people began to enjoy the game until discovering that it takes 40 hours to unlock a single character. EA promised to not make the same mistakes with the upcoming game Anthem. They ended up making mistakes in that game too, just not the same ones.
Leading UK academics have called for the government to call a statutory levy on loot boxes in video games, believing they are causing a gambling addiction in the youth and that they are unethical. Randy Pichford, CEO of Gearbox software explained his thoughts on predatory monetization in a tweet:
“I am generally very much against predatory monetization schemes in F2P games for consumable goods and even more so against them in premium games. I tend to oppose such techniques both as and artist and creator and also as a customer and a gamer.”
In response to a reddit post complaining about Star Wars Battlefront, EA defended the game: “The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes…”
This soon became the most downvoted post in all of reddit, known as the “The Pride And Accomplishment Thread.”
Electronic Arts Vice President Kerry Hopkins has also defended loot boxes, calling them “quite ethical and quite fun.”
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