How Effective Are Loot Boxes?

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Online gaming has become wildly popular in the last 15 years or so. Subgenres such as competitive tournaments and streaming have seen the industry reach heights never seen before. Loot boxes are a corner of the gaming world that has also gained a lot of popularity.

Since their implementation into a beloved soccer simulation back in 2009, loot boxes have gone on to far surpass any aspect of garnering revenue. Reports suggest that they have added billions in addition to outright sales, and when such figures are being touted, naturally the rest of the industry sat up and took notice. Now, loot boxes and similar offerings can be found in plenty of new releases. They provide random or set rewards, allowing players to upgrade their team, skin, stats, and pretty much anything you can think of when it comes to the in-game experience.


Central to the soccer simulation game that made the loot box famous is the collection of player cards. Gamers can obtain cards through various methods: purchasing them directly from the in-game store using the game’s currency — which can be earned through gameplay or bought with real money — trading with other players, or completing in-game challenges.

The most notable type involves buying “packs,” which contain a random assortment of rewards. A significant aspect of these packs is that the contents remain unknown until purchased and opened, akin to opening a loot box. It’s a system that bears a striking resemblance to playing live casino games in real time, where punters experience immediate feedback and potential rewards, which are triggered by chance. Typical promotions for these live games involve bonus funds for another chance to obtain rewards in specific games, and, similarly, players may purchase packs for the chance to obtain rare cards that can strengthen their starting team or load out. This added layer of uncertainty and anticipation can make it an immersive and rewarding experience.



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User Behavior

The design of loot boxes has seen various principles implemented to maintain engagement. One such example is “variable ratio reinforcement,” where rewards are given at unpredictable intervals. This type of reward system is also similar to the slot machines found in a casino and is entertainment personified, resulting in plenty of engagement.

Popular games also often introduce limited-time events and special packs that offer exclusive or rare items. These offers diversify the player experience, introducing novel experiences throughout the year to keep content fresh. Promotional periods such as birthday events, end-of-year events and many others, are exciting times to be a gamer on the planet’s most beloved titles, both from the perspective of the end-user and the game’s developer itself.

Online gaming has experienced a significant evolution over the past 15 years, with loot boxes emerging as a notable feature within the landscape. The mechanics and user behaviour associated with loot boxes have contributed to their popularity, offering gamers an engaging and dynamic way to enhance their in-game experience. As the industry continues to evolve, the implementation of such elements will likely remain a topic of interest and discussion among developers and players alike.

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