Australian study deems loot boxes “psychologically akin to gambling”

The Australian Environment and Communications References Committee has released the results of its investigation into loot boxes, calling them an unregulated and exploitative form of gambling.

A loot box from a video-game

The study has warned that loot boxes could lead to gambling problems. © Pexels.

The Australian Senate commissioned the Committee to conduct the study back in June, as part of its review into loot boxes and micro-transactions in video-games, which was debated recently in the Australian Senate.

However, the conclusions of this study have led to the Senate extending its own review, and delaying the publication of the results until October 17.

The study was conducted by Dr. David Zendle and Paul Cairns. Over 7400 gamers were surveyed and the results were presented at a public hearing in Canberra.

The main finding was a strong correlative link between problem gambling and loot boxes. The researchers were able to draw a direct link between loot box spending and the severity of an individual’s gambling problem.

These results support the position of academics who claim that loot boxes are psychologically akin to gambling. Spending large amounts of money on loot boxes was associated with problematic levels of spending on other forms of gambling. This is what one would expect if loot boxes psychologically constituted a form of gambling. It is not what one would expect if loot boxes were, instead, psychologically comparable to baseball cards.Statement, Paul Cairns and Dr. David Zendle

The Committee also concluded that loot boxes are likely to act as a gateway drug, with loot box use potentially leading to serious gambling-related harm.

Drawing on these findings, the Committee has recommended that games containing loot boxes should only be available to those over the legal gambling age, which is 18 years-old in Australia. The games should be given a parental advisory warning, with the presence of in-game gambling made clear.

Furthermore, the authors of the study recommend that further regulation of loot boxes seems necessary.

The pressure on video-game developers in regard to loot boxes and in-game transactions is really hotting up. In Belgium, Electronic Arts (EA) are the subject of a criminal investigation, after they refused to remove the FIFA Ultimate Team transaction from the FIFA series.

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