Monetization 3/3 – Lootboxes

Time for the big one. I’m a little reluctant to even write this post due to it’s fairly charged topic, but gotta take a risk sometime yeah?

I consider myself be fairly moderate on this topic. I’ve read quite a lot of opinions and spent a lot of time turning the whole idea over in my head. That said, these are in fact simply my own opinions on the matter. One voice amongst many.

We’ll start with an easy one, what is a loot box?

In the context I’m using it I am generally referring exclusively to paying money in exchange for an unknown product. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no difference between a box with a random CS:GO weapon skin, a random mount, a random grab-bag at the flea market, a “blind bag” toy, a Magic the Gathering booster pack, or a lottery ticket. These are the same product!

You are paying for the entertainment value of a chance to “win.” Receiving other items as a consolation prize isn’t particularly relevant to me.

Are loot boxes gambling?

In my own personal opinion, yes, I believe that they are.

Legally they currently aren’t considered to be in most places. This is a super complicated legal issue because a broad ruling could cause trouble for a lot of companies in a lot of different markets.

I think Hasbro would have something to say about any legislation that happened to include toys or card games.

Is this practice exploitative?

I mean, not really any more so than the sale of things like alcohol? Some people develop a dependency on alcohol and for some people it’s gambling. I think it’s more important that we invest in recognizing and treating people with these problems. Banning and/or restricting sales doesn’t appear to be very effective at preventing this.

Is it particularly exploitative of children?

As a parent I really feel the answer is usually no. I feel that it’s the parents being exploited in those cases, not the children. I have, and will continue to, purchase occasional blind bag toys and virtual currency for my children. I do not see these products as inherently evil. I’m also the one with the spending power. My children cannot (currently) spend money independently. Every single purchase is reviewed and authorized by me. This is not the case for everyone, however, and unchecked I believe it’s

As a funny side note, I’ve had the children specifically choose a different blind bag toy because they could see through the packaging and didn’t want it because they already knew what it was. The mind games these things play work much earlier than I would have assumed otherwise.

Should they be regulated?

I think, ultimately, the answer boils down to yes. I don’t feel they should be banned, as that could have some unexpected negative consequences for the gaming industry and other industries as well.

At a minimum they should have clearly listed odds, per line item, preferable directly on the package or item description. This would be immensely valuable as a parent because when they bring me one say they hope the get Darth Vader I can then attempt to explain what 2% means

My stats say someone reading this is from Belgium.

And man is your gambling commission causing a ruckus. It’s good though, it needs to happen, we need real data and your country is making that happen! I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, whoever you are, since you live in the only country that has actually bothered to do something about it.

Conclusion?

I readily admit that these things are a manipulative product that’s very consumer unfriendly. I agree that something should be done, though I’m not certain that a blanket ban is that something. This type of product isn’t going anywhere in a hurry though, because it’s basically printing money right now and in my own country that money limits our choice of legislators.

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