Loot boxes and in-game purchases have been put under the crosshairs of a new study by the University of Adelaide. These business practices have become quite popular in recent years as video game companies try their best to monetize their product. However, the researchers behind the study lambasted such practices as predatory and far too similar to gambling. This could affect the result of Australia's current investigation into loot boxes and how they should be treated.
Though the study focused its criticism mainly on microtransactions, the researchers pointed out that loot boxes posed a significant financial risk for players who are vulnerable to the addictive properties of the product. They just keep on buying and opening loot boxes in the hopes of getting a high-value product worth their purchase.
In a statement, Dr. Daniel King, Senior Research Associate in the University of Adelaide's School of Psychology, said
These schemes may entice some players to spend more money than they may have intended or can afford, especially when using credit cards or virtual currency that makes it hard to keep track of spending
Loot boxes are random in nature. This means that buyers don't know what they will get when they open the box. It could be something common or extremely rare. The problem is that some products are unique to loot boxes and obsessive players keep on buying loot boxes until they get what they want. The result is something similar to the scratch cards that people buy at lottery shops, where they keep on buying them in the hopes of eventually winning.
Predatory Monetization Practices
The sale of loot boxes is also combined with what researchers call ‘predatory monetization’. Depending on a player's spending habits, in-game items may suddenly find their prices changing to further encourage the purchase of loot boxes. Pressure tactics like limited-time sales have also been used to convince players to buy even more loot boxes.
The trouble is that all of these contribute to a loop of purchases that entrap the buyer. They keep buying since they feel that they have already spent a lot of money on their goal, they just have to move forward even with the additional financial costs.
According to Professor Paul Delfabbr, the loot box market is operating without restrictions and regulations. With many young players participating in these loot box games, they are especially vulnerable to such schemes as they don’t have the self-control required to say no to such predatory practices. This study may tip Australian lawmakers to follow in the footsteps of the Netherlands which banned loot boxes.