New UK research finds opening lootboxes is ‘structurally and psychologically akin’ to gambling


The mountain of research-based evidence against lootboxes has had another leaflet added to the pile. A recent report from researchers at the universities of Plymouth and Wolverhampton in the UK has concluded that opening gaming lockboxes is “structurally and psychologically akin” to gambling.

The research, commissioned by the GambleAware charity, analyzed 13 previous studies into the behaviors of gamers who purchased lootboxes, compiling them to examine the strength of links between lootbox buying habits and gambling habits. Twelve of the studies found an “unambiguous” link between the two, with games using what the research calls a “psychological nudge” to encourage people to buy loot boxes. Of the 93% of children that play games with lockboxes, 40% have opened them, and about 5% of gamers generate half the entire revenue from lootbox sales.

The research is part of an ongoing call by the UK Parliament to review the country’s existing Gambling Act. The deadline for all research to be turned in is March 31st, after which the UK government is expected to publish its conclusions and reform proposals in a whitepaper later this year.

Conservative MP Richard Holden is among those calling for lootboxes to be included in the UK Gambling Act, saying, “They are regulated in the same way as football stickers were when I was a kid and it is clear that these products have moved on so much faster than the laws governing them.” A spokesperson for Ukie, the UK games industry’s trade body, responded by saying the country’s games industry has already taken action regarding the matter:

“Probability disclosures has already been introduced to the major game platforms; a new paid random item descriptor was added to the PEGI age rating system in 2020 to inform players of their presence; settings and tools on all major game devices – and in a number of leading games – already allow players to manage, limit or turn off spend.”

Further reading about lootboxes and UK gambling laws:

sources: BBC, The Guardian, Lexology, thanks to the Dead Secret World Game for the tip!
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