Is it gambling like UK online casinos or is it gaming? Loot boxes have been used by developers for the last few years and are subject to many debates. There are some who think that this system allows games to be free, and there are some who claim, they make players accustomed to gambling. In any case, it seems we can continue to discuss loot boxes for a long while. In this article, we will take a close look at the topic and talk about how this mechanics affects games and players.

For example, an ad of NetEnt casino would be telling you about the advantages of NetEnt slots.

What Are Loot Boxes?

First, we need to explain what the loot boxes are. We can simply define them as digital boxes that are sold with real money in the in-game stores and contain virtual items. They have been used for quite a long time, but they became popular because of the Overwatch, developed by Blizzard. Overwatch is a buy-to-play game, but it has also loot boxes that can be purchased for real money. These boxes include hero skins, in-game currencies, and sound effects. In other words, they contain only cosmetic items, not things that will provide an advantage to the players.

But there are also games that integrate loot boxes differently. There are many games that are free to play. In this type of games, items that can make players stronger than others can also come out of the boxes. In other words, if you pay, you can have the highest level items in the game instantly.

In any case, the loot boxes have one thing in common: Their content is randomly determined. You never know what you will get. In other words, if you need a specific item, you can open up to 100 boxes and you may still not find it. What you get is completely random and based on chance. That's why they are thought to be some kind of gambling. Games have mechanisms that encourage you to buy these boxes constantly, and if you choose not to use real money, there is a risk of falling behind other players. In short, this system is mostly used in competitive games and encourages players to buy continuously so that they remain competitive.

How Successful Are These Boxes?

Perhaps you'll be amazed, but the loot box mechanics are incredibly successful. Let's give the example of Fortnite: You can start playing this game, developed by Epic Games, completely free of charge. You don't have to purchase it. However, the loot boxes in the game contain both cosmetic items and those that give you an advantage. Theoretically, you can play completely free without ever buying a box. But if you like the game and decide to play at a competitive level, you'll have to buy them sooner or later.

Epic Games earned $1 billion in one year thanks to these loot boxes. Mobile versions of the game are expected to bring at least $ 500 million in the same period. In other words, Epic Games will profit 1.5 billion dollars from the loot boxes system in just one year. This is an incredible figure. To give you an idea, let's say that the Avengers Infinity War, one of the most expensive movies in history, couldn’t exceed the $ 700 million profit limit. A single PC game made more money than any movie released in 2018.

The system is so successful that it is copied by almost all developers. For example, Activision has added loot boxes to the last game of Call of Duty. Electronic Arts uses them in the Star Wars series. Today, it is very difficult to find a game that does not contain loot boxes. If a game is played online, it will definitely include loot boxes.

The Legality of Loot Boxes

The resemblance of this system to gambling led to the initiation of various investigations in many countries. For example, in countries that banned online casinos, games using this system can still be played. Anti-gambling laws do not cover such games. However, this seems to change soon: Many European countries are preparing to ban loot boxes in a clear manner. The following table shows the legal status of various countries on the subject.

Netherlands At the moment, yes. But it is expected that they will be illegal in 2019.
Belgium Yes, but they will become illegal in Q1 2019. Blizzard has already removed the ability to purchase loot boxes for Belgian players.
China Illegal
South Korea Illegal
Australia Legal, but the box must contain a warning
United Kingdom Legal
United States Illegal in Minnesota, legal anywhere else
France Legal

To tell the truth, loot boxes are no different from slot machines. However, game developers have better PRs and, if necessary, can simplify mechanics. Therefore, we do not think that there will be a problem with the legality of loot boxes outside a few European countries.