No matter what genre of games you like to play on a daily basis, if any of them have online versions, there’s a 99% chance that they will receive loot crate mechanics sooner rather than later.
The whole idea of loot crates isn’t very new actually, they’ve been around for a decade or so, but they became truly popular when Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive started to classify the loot.
For example, there was the common skin, the rare skin, and various other types. The rarer the skin you possessed, the more “social points” you’d be assigned within the game, and players started to pursue it on quite a problematic level.
It became so popular at some point that people were playing these games just for the sake of buying loot crates and opening them for fun. But this fund wasn’t as innocent as developers perceived it to be. Multiple studies have shown that opening loot crates creates the same chemical reactions in the brain as playing gambling games.
When the problems started
The problems started around 2015-2016 when online influencers started to base their entire content output on opening loot crates. Hundreds of YouTubers would make videos on a daily basis of them just opening loot crates and reacting to what they received. This influenced their viewers to try it out as well.
Before anyone figured out what was happening, there were websites popping up where kids could bet their skins for real money and hopefully win something. The games were based on spinning a wheel and whoever’s skin the arrow landed on, got the whole lot.
It was a free entry at the beginning, which resembled free slots a lot, but authorities were not paying attention.
The kids would choose the skin they were ready to gamble, place it somewhere on the wheel, and hope that after the spinning stopped it would be their skin that the arrow landed on. But the difference was that they weren’t getting skins as a prize, they were getting actual, real money.
The first attempt to manage this outbreak of skin gambling was in the United Kingdom where the local gaming authority classified these skin betting websites as nothing but regular gambling sites, without any license or operational authority.
The owners were fined and in some cases arrested for directing their viewers and easily impressionable kids to this website. Should these operations had continued, it would spiral out of control and produce even more problem gamblers for the country than they already had.
Should loot crates be banned?
Recently there was a hearing in the parliament of the United Kingdom, where are representative of Electronic Arts, one of the largest game studios referred to loot crates as “surprise mechanics”, essentially driving the attention away from the established buzz word.
This was done in order to retain the authority to offer these options to players, which was heavily criticized by both the parliament, as well as the gaming community.
The best way to structure it would be to either make these games R rated or simply ban the option completely.
But we’ve already seen that rating a game R, does not drive away from an impressionable audience of people under 18, which leaves only the latter option as a solution.
But in reality, all that the developers need to do, in order to retain their loot crate mechanics is give a 100% “drop chance” to the contents of the crates. They can simply price different levels of loot crates accordingly, thus removing the gambling aspect completely.
Leaving the loot crate system as it is, would be extremely unethical, as the developers are basically turning into casinos for kids, which is basically a crime in most countries.