Problem gamblers spend less money when loot boxes are removed from a game: a before and after study of Heroes of the Storm
OPEN PeerJ | 5 Nov 2019
Loot boxes are items in video games that may be paid for with real-world money, but which contain randomised contents. There is a reliable correlation between loot box spending and problem gambling severity: the more money gamers spend on loot boxes, the more severe their problem gambling tends to be. However, it is unclear whether this link represents a case in which loot box spending causes problem gambling; a case in which the gambling-like nature of loot boxes cause problem gamblers to spend more money; or whether it simply represents a case in which there is a general dysregulation in in-game spending amongst problem gamblers, nonspecific to loot boxes. The multiplayer video game Heroes of the Storm recently removed loot boxes. In order to better understand links between loot boxes and problem gambling, we conducted an analysis of players of Heroes of the Storm (n = 112) both before and after the removal of loot boxes. There were a complex pattern of results. In general, when loot boxes were removed from Heroes of the Storm, problem gamblers appeared to spend significantly less money in-game in contrast to other groups. These results suggest that the presence of loot boxes in a game may lead to problem gamblers spending more money in-game. It therefore seems possible that links between loot box spending and problem gambling are not due to a general dysregulation in in-game spending amongst problem gamblers, but rather are to do with specific features of loot boxes themselves.
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