Nearly every gamer has been tempted at some point by loot boxes. They drop as rewards for victories over enemies, and a quick check on a game's Wiki pages reveals a tantalizing array of prizes that might be contained within those little boxes, everything from weapons and armor to cosmetic clothing and pets to spells and relics. Loot boxes are tempting indeed.
But the problem with loot boxes is that they require a key, and in many games these days, keys must be purchased with points that are either earned through game subscriptions or bought with real money. What's more, when someone purchases one of those keys, there is no guarantee that when they open the loot box, there will be anything valuable or useful in it. The gamer might find an ugly piece of cosmetic armor, a weapon below the player's level, or an item already in the player's collection.
Therefore, purchasing keys to these boxes and opening loot boxes is always something of a gamble. It costs real money, or at least points purchased with real money, and it is not guaranteed to be a “winner.” It might, in fact, be a waste.
Yet gamers purchase loot box keys frequently. In fact, research shows that 40% of players under age eighteen have opened loot boxes, and several studies have linked loot boxes to other kinds of more problematic gambling. Some players have been found to spend more than $100 per month on loot box keys, and for gaming companies, this adds up to billions of dollars in revenue each year. This is why some countries and states have discussed classifying loot boxes as a form of online gambling that requires regulation.