Loot boxes are “psychologically akin to gambling”, says Australian ECRC

Loot boxes are â??psychologically akin to gamblingâ??, says Australian ECRC

Loot boxes are “psychologically akin to gambling”, says Australian ECRC 

The Australian Environmental and Communications Reference Committee (ECRC) has released a study which links in-game “Loot Boxes” to problem gambling, stating that “loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling”.

This report surveyed over 7,400 gamers, with the ECRC reporting their findings in a public hearing in Canberra, which acts as part of a broader state enquiry into microtransactions and chance-based items in the gaming market. 

Some developers, most notably EA with their FIFA Ultimate Team system, states that their change-based packs are not similar to gambling, due to the lack of real-world value for the items purchased, making their Ultimate Team Packs similar to buying physical baseball cards or similar items. The ECRC, on the other hand, says that their study finds that their results “support the position of academics who claim that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling,” and that their findings are “not what one would expect if loot boxes were, instead, psychologically comparable to baseball cards.”

The conclusion of the report links a player’s gambling habits to their loot box purchases, finding a direct correlation between loot box spending and gambling habits. 
During the public hearing, it was stated that Juniper Research estimated that around 25% of the game’s industry’s earnings came from loot boxes in 2018, predicting that this number would rise to roughly 47% by 2022 if the practice remained unregulated. 

The ECRC warned that in-game loot boxes could act as a gateway into gambling-related problems, and believe that video game companies will exploit those with gambling disorders to maximise their profit. 

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(Call of Duty: WWII was mentioned at the hearing, as the game encourages players to watch others open Loot Crates)

The ECRC has suggested that Australia adds advisory labels to video games that include loot boxes (similar to PEGI’s new “In-Game Purchases label), warning potential players about their presence. It was also suggested that games with loot boxes be given an 18 age restriction, forcing applicable games to comply with Australia’s local gambling laws, which has an age restriction for those who are not 18 or over. 

At this time it is unknown what the Australian Government plans to do with the ECRC’s report, though it seems likely that the state will act on these findings sometime in the future. Australia is famous for their restrictions on video games, so much so that Wikipedia has a page that lists all of the games that are actively banned from sale within the country. 

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