Gambling Debate Continues as Loot Boxes Race Towards £32 Billion Value

New research suggests that loot boxes will become a £32 billion industry by 2022, prompting further calls for so-called skin gambling to be regulated.

Loot boxes Overwatch.  

Loot boxes like the one shown in this image from Overwatch could be worth £32 billion by 2022. (Image: overwatch.wikia.com)

According to a report by Juniper Research, the video game feature that allows players to unlock special prizes is becoming increasingly popular.

Outlining the latest findings in a paper published on April 17, Juniper’s researchers believe the market will be worth £32 billion within the next four years.

Skins Are Worth Something

Otherwise known as skins, the in-game bonuses are available in two ways. Players can either win them by completing certain in-game tasks or they can purchase a loot box and receive a mystery prize.

“These items have value depending on rarity and popularity within game communities. On PCs, skins are traded for real money via Steam’s Marketplace; the platform has 125 million registered users globally,” Juniper Research’s Lauren Foye explained.

Based on the evidence, the Daily Fantasy Sports & In-game Gambling; Skins and Loot Boxes 2018-2022 report calls for regulation of the industry.

Because loot boxes cost money but don’t guarantee a return with an equivalent value, many have described it as a form of gambling.

In November 2017, the Belgium Gaming Commission launched an investigation into EA Games and its use of loot boxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Although regulators have yet to take action, Justice Minister Koen Geens did call for them to be banned.

Experts Divided on the Issue

Since the review, EA boss Andrew Wilson has said the loot box system used in Star Wars was a mistake and part of a learning experience.

In line with this, fellow executive Patrick Söderlund told The Verge in April that both EA and the industry at large need to consider the issue carefully.

“We have taken significant steps as a company to review and understand the mechanics around monetisation, loot boxes, and other things in our games before they go to market,” Söderlund said in the April 13 interview.

For its part, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) currently believes that loot boxes fall outside of its remit and, therefore, companies don’t require a gaming licence. Responding to a government petition in 2017, Executive Director Tim Miller reiterated the organisation’s 2016 assessment that loot box rewards don’t have any real-world value.

However, with researchers suggesting that loot boxes will become even more lucrative in the coming years, legal experts will be keeping an eye on the situation as it develops.

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