|Type of paper:||Thesis proposal|
|Categories:||Video games Money Human behavior|
A loot box commonly referred to as a prize crate in video games is a consumable virtual product that is redeemed to get a random selection of more virtual items/ loot. This ranges from common and easy customization chances for a player's character to complex game-changing equipment the likes of armor and weapons. In other words, loot boxes is just a typical type of monetization with players having options of buying the boxes directly or getting the boxes when playing and later acquiring keys that get redeemed. The system may also be referred to as gacha a name that originates from capsule toys "gashapon" that is well integrated into gacha games.
The loot boxes concept was first developed from the loot systems; this is rapidly multiplayer online virtual playing game. Moreover, its origin is further associated with the monetization of free-to-play gaming. The loot boxes came to market between 2004 through 2007; they are available in most free-to-play games and full-priced games for the past decade. The developers and publishers of this video games use the skills to generate more cash for games at the same time avoiding challenges of game subscription or downloadable content (Griffiths, 2018). Moreover, they keep player curiosity in the games but showing new attractive content through the loot-boxes reward process.
Whereas the loot boxes are a component of a game, a similar principle is observed, they increase the winning possibilities of a gamer with more content and extra virtual objects. Most of them contain items that customize their characters for the gamers. It is also important to note that the gamers are aware of the number of items present in a loot box before it is open but are not informed of the content therein. The loot boxes can be received after achieving some game objectives depending on the type of games, or they can be bought from shops or online. Purchasing loot boxes is not mandatory, but they are often used to complete the game. The paper tries to explain the significance of loot boxes in video games. Are they really helpful or it is just a way of siphoning more cash from gamers?
The current market for the virtual products and extra content that are purchased through micro-transitions has expanded very first in the last one decade; the expansion is highest in Germany and some of the Asian countries (Marcey, 2018). The continual growth is a sign that gamers are quite happy with this additional item, and they might be playing a positive role through additional offers.
The most trending debate among the gamers is about the providers' model; the model in these micro-transitions is giving more content for sell even after purchasing the game itself (Nielsen, 2019). This can, therefore, be seen as commercialization of the industry, and this can be compared to the commercialization of the film market. Just after the game is released, the titles solid at full price or special collector option at an increased price. Any other additional content is termed as add-ons or downloadable content which are sold separately. For this case, the additional content can either be won in games or bought, which generate extra revenues to the providers. The extra cash received from the micro-transactions plays a very important role for all the stakeholders. The cash has played an important supplementary source of revenue that helps the prices of games to remain constant despite the high production costs. Important to note, most of the gamers do no spend extra cash on the additional offers. However, those who spend extra cash on these virtual items and other additional contents use an average amount that is equivalent to a cinema ticket on a monthly basis.
The Uses and Gratification
It is believed that loot boxes give buyers advantages over non-buyers, this has caused a lot of criticism from gamers the extra content lead to unfair completion in most of the games, it is perceived that buyers pay to win the games and non-buyers only depend on lack. However, one of the most important elements of online games is that all participants begin from a common position and only the gamers ability and skills will determine whether he/she will win the game or not. In the long -run, the winning of any online game entirely depends on the balance of the above factors (Drummond & Sauer, 2019). All these microtransactions (add-ons, extra content) are key aspects for producers today; they must strike a practical balance to win more clients in the competitive business environment.
The loot boxes, therefore, is a strategy to attract more customers by proving that, more winning can be attained through purchasing extra add-ons. Further, future predictions are very clear that microtransactions in gaming are going to expand. The idea has been received well in most countries, especially the west. However, the industry is facing a lot of legal actions from authorities as the items are considered as gambling, and more protection laws are being enacted to protect the gamers more so children. The latest being the changes made by Apple Inc. to their IOS App Store, demanding developers that put games to the App store to be open with the odds of items that can be won from microtransactions before the gamers spend money on the games. However, Entertainment Software Association has always said that loot boxes and other microtransactions are not gambling games because they are optional and voluntary aspects in the games. This raises questions on the future business environment of these microtransactions.
Significance of Loot Boxes
There are many important aspects of loot boxes below are some of the most common ones (King & Delfabbro, 2019).
Loot boxes are always open on the number of virtual items and any other additional content therein. This is unlike micro-transactions where exact content are not made public, and gamers end up buying content they don't like
Secondly, it is not easy to lose the money from your initial investment, often, this is the basic unit of gambling, but in purchasing loot boxes, the gamer must win something in return, often in the form of virtual content (Macey & Hamari, 2019). This is one of the reasons it attracts more gamers. For the majority of gamers, loot boxes are not the driving factors in-game participation, and therefore it does not lead to gaming addiction or unnecessary expenditure.
Finally, there is a control measure; parents can prevent their children from buying microtransactions buy not putting credit card details or disabling the purchase system. Moreover, the loot boxes are governed by rules that protect under-age through regulatory bodies such as Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body.
Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Is the buying of loot boxes in video games a form of gambling or gaming?. Gaming Law Review,22(1), 52-54. https://doi.org/10.1089/glr2.2018.2216
Macey, J., & Hamari, J. (2019). eSports, skins and loot boxes: Participants, practices and problematic behavior associated with emergent forms of gambling. new media & society, 21(1), 20-41. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818786216
Nielsen, R. K. L., & Grabarczyk, P. (2019). Are Loot Boxes Gambling? Random reward mechanisms in video games.Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association,4(3). https://doi.org/10.26503/todigra.v4i3.104
Drummond, A., & Sauer, J. D. (2018). Video game loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling - nature human behavior, 2(8), 530. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-018-0360-1
King, D. L., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2019). Video game monetization (e.g., 'loot boxes'): A blueprint for practical social responsibility measures. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17(1), 166-179. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-018-0009-3
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