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Loot boxes: From loved to taboo

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A basic understanding of where loot boxes come from, where they’re banned and how they compare to gambling.


For some, loot boxes are a source of entertainment that provides an advantage in the games. For others, it’s a concern that may lead to future problems, which is why it’s been banned in various regions.

We take a quick look at how loot boxes went from a fun game addition to taboo in so many parts of the world.

A quick loot box history

Loot boxes started appearing in video games between 2004 and 2007, and over the years, it has been hit with big controversy. Many critics and government officials believe these random reward boxes are similar to gambling. One of the biggest distinctions between the two has always been that you get to cash out your rewards with casino bonuses. And that’s not the case with loot boxes.

One of the biggest arguments used in banning loot boxes in various regions is that they encourage kids to overspend during gaming sessions. They are a big source of revenue for gaming companies and one of concern for parents and authorities.

Physical loot boxes vs digital loot boxes

Physical loot boxes are like subscription boxes where you get geek or gaming-related merchandise delivered monthly for a price. There are different types of loot boxes available, and Loot Crate is one such subscription service.

Physical loot boxes like this are filled with merchandise you purchase blindly – meaning you have no idea what the box contains until it arrives. You have to trust the service to choose items for you based on your interests.

Digital loot boxes are mostly linked to video games. You can redeem or purchase these consumable items to receive one or multiple mystery items. These can include game skins, weapons, armour and other things that can improve your gameplay.

The main source of the loot box controversy is around online games like FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), where you open loot boxes that contain digital cards. These cards determine the players you’ll fill your team with, which could affect whether you win or lose. Customers will purchase multiple loot boxes to get their favourites, which can lead to huge costs.

Regions where loot boxes are illegal

It’s strange to consider that these boxes that were once fun and exciting are now completely taboo in various regions. The UK is one of many that have considered banning loot boxes.

According to the UK, loot boxes are considered structurally and psychologically the same as gambling. Regions where loot boxes are considered illegal include China, which is very strict and detailed in its ban. You cannot purchase loot boxes here using real or virtual currency.

Japan banned ‘Kompu Gacha’, a special type of loot box, in 2012. It should be noted that other loot boxes are regulated in this region, and the law protects all consumers from possible deceptive practices.

In Canada, it is considered a breach of the Criminal Code if gaming companies sell loot boxes via their video games. Belgium has also banned loot boxes, but statistics have revealed that the ban has been rather ineffective. And then there is the Netherlands, which also banned loot boxes in video games back in June 2022.

Similarities in loot boxes and casino bonuses

Many factors surrounding loot boxes led to concern and the eventual ban thereof in various regions.

Aside from the fact that users have to spend cash on these boxes, statistics have shown that many participants in video games with loot boxes are more likely to participate in gambling activities when they are older. And that does not necessarily mean a legal age.

Then there are the similarities between loot boxes and casino bonuses. A big perk for casino players is the constant enhancements in what casinos have to offer. Some online casinos will award players with a mystery treasure chest upon deposit. Which, in essence, is the same as a loot box. You pay to receive a mystery box filled with rewards.

The push around banning loot boxes and their similarities to casino bonuses has caused some casinos to change how they operate. Many still provide mystery prizes, but they state what can potentially be won or offer multiple options to choose from instead.

It remains to be seen if more changes will be made in the future and how they could affect the casino industry.

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