Loot boxes have been around for a long time now. They’ve available in a huge number of different online games, but they’re most prevalent in MMORPGs. The reason for this is the way the MMORPGs are designed. As role playing games they require players to level up in order to complete different tasks. This can be through levelling the character up through experience points or by getting hold of better equipment and spells. In the modern world, it’s this second part that has become home to the loot box.

What are Loot Boxes?

Loot boxes are essentially a random prize that is awarded to players. This can be earned in two different ways. First, loot boxes can be awarded for completing tasks in the game. Some games will give them out for beating bosses. Others will give them out in exchange for currency that has been earned. These loot boxes tend to give out the lower rarity prizes.

The other way that loot boxes are awarded is through purchasing them with real life money. This can either be by paying for the in game currency which will then be exchanged for the loot box or by just buying the loot box directly. This will then give players the chance to get some of the better equipment in the game and increase their chances of winning. However, there are a lot of different discussions surrounding loot boxes at the moment.

Are Loot Boxes Worth it?

This is the first thing that comes up when talking about loot boxes are if they are worth the outlay. Because there is no guarantee what equipment you will be awarded by the loot box, it’s impossible to say just how much it will cost to get the weapon or armour that you want.

This means that you can end up spending 2 or 3 times what the actual game cost you trying to get hold of the loot that you want. Obviously, each individual person will have to decide whether this is worth it or not, but generally speaking this is a lot to pay for an item in game.

What has also drummed up some controversy is that people feel as though it introduces young people to gambling. Because loot boxes are basically a gamble on what you will get, it means that they will become addicted to the feeling of gambling on something at an early age.

Repercussions

In terms of repercussions this hasn’t led to anything serious at the moment. However, there are a lot of different plans being drawn up by regulatory bodies. A lot of regulators feel that loot boxes should come under their jurisdiction. This would stop loot boxes from being available to anyone below the legal gambling age in a country.

On top of this it would also mean that the mathematics behind loot boxes would have to be made public. This is something that a lot of MMORPGs don’t do at the moment. So, players don’t know what the chances of them getting different items are. It means that it’s even more of a gamble as there is no statistical idea of what will be given out to players.

It’s likely that in the near future there will be regulations put in place for loot boxes, especially if they continue to be such positive drivers of revenue for different sites. There is no guarantee of when this will happen and on top of that, different countries will have different regulators in place. This does mean that potentially loot boxes could be available in one country but not in another.

It means that in theory players could have an advantage in terms of what’s available to them in different countries. When it comes to competitive play this could cause some issues.

Other Loot Box Innovations

What has also taken place is the appearance of sports betting sites that allow players to wager what they have earned from loot boxes. They are able to either bet on other players or even bet on their own performance. They can wager skins and other items and then try to earn the items that they want without having to keep buying loot boxes.

Obviously, this is gambling in its purest form and as such there is some regulation in place. However, a lot of games don’t agree with this practice and so they have banned it. Anyone who is found doing this on a game that has banned skin wagers will lose their account and the items on that account.

As such, it’s a risky way to play as even if you manage to win the item that you’re looking for, if you’re found out you could lose your whole account.

The Future for Loot Boxes

It’s difficult to tell what will happen with loot boxes in the future. They are constantly evolving and as regulators start to take a closer look at what they have to offer, it could be the case that the way that they are applied in games changes significantly in the future. It could be the case that they can only be bought with in-game currency in the future, or it could move to them only being awarded when defeating certain bosses. Of course, the game developers could convince regulators that loot boxes aren’t a form of gambling and they remain as they currently are. We will have to wait and see. The fact remains though, loot boxes are unlikely to go away any time soon.

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British born administrator and developer helping serve and promote open source content to the MMORPG development community since 2001.