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Loot boxes are again linked to problem gambling: results of a replication study

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Publication details

JournalPLoS ONE
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Feb 2019
DatePublished (current) - 7 Mar 2019
Issue number3
Number of pages13
Original languageEnglish


Loot boxes are items in video games that contain randomised contents and can be purchased with real-world money. Similarities between loot boxes and forms of gambling have led to questions about their legal status, and whether they should be regulated as gambling.
Previous research has suggested a link between the amount that gamers spend on loot boxes and their problem gambling: The more individuals spent on loot boxes, the more severe their problem gambling. However, the generalisability of prior work may be limited by both the self-selected nature of the sample under test, and the fact that participants were aware of the study’s aims.
A large-scale survey of gamers (n=1,172) was undertaken to determine if this link remained when these limitations of previous work were taken into account. These gamers did not self-select into a loot box study and were not aware of the study’s aims. This study found similar evidence for a link (η2 = 0.051) between the amount that gamers spent on loot boxes and the severity of their problem gambling.
Previous research strongly suggested both the size and the direction of link between loot box use and problem gambling. This paper provides further support for this link. These results suggest either that loot boxes act as a gateway to problem gambling, or that individuals with gambling problems are drawn to spend more on loot boxes. In either case, we believe that these results suggest there is good reason to regulate loot boxes.

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Zendle, Cairns

    Research areas

  • digital games, lootboxes, problem gambling

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