Loot boxes are not well-liked in the gaming community, now even the NHS's director of mental health has spoken out against them.
Loot boxes suck. It’s not exactly a hot take but it’s true. Loot boxes are a stain on the industry, at least in my opinion. Despite this many companies and gamers out there defend the practice of using them. Sometimes even in full-priced retail games.
On the plus side, lots of people are recognizing how bad they actually are. Shadow of War had them removed, so did Star Wars Battlefront 2. Possibly the widespread attention from regulatory bodies helped that decision. Now even the NHS has weighed into the subject.
Recently the mental health director for the NHS, Claire Murdoch, has called for loot boxes to be banned. The main reason behind this, and one I happen to agree with, is that they set kids up for addiction. Murdoch also delves into teens spending huge sums on loot boxes.
These are two major issues that currently face the games industry. Companies are trying to monetize their games in as many ways as possible. Most of the time these new forms of monetization are a massive detriment to the actual games they feature in. Especially with loot boxes.
Several authorities around the world have declared loot boxes are gambling. The Belgium Gaming Commission for a start. Even other countries that don’t see them directly as gambling have admitted they need restriction or alteration to reduce the harm they do.
Companies like EA and Epic need to be held accountable for their use of loot boxes. It is no longer acceptable that they are included in video games, at all. Microtransactions are barely passible as it is. Adding that element of random chance takes things far too close to gambling.
Clair Murdock has a great deal to say about the dangers that these loot boxes pose to children:
“Young people’s health is at stake, and although the NHS is stepping up with these new, innovative services available to families through our Long Term Plan, we cannot do this alone, so other parts of society must do what they can to limit risks and safeguard children’s wellbeing.” – Claire Murdoch
If we don’t pressure companies to remove these features by not supporting them, then things are going to get worse. Overreaching by governments can only harm the industry. It’s up to us as gamers to force companies to stop these predatory practices before we all suffer for it.