The rise of loot boxes in gaming


With the holiday season in full swing, many gamers are excited to pick up a new title for their collection. However many gamers have found that there is a new trend in their favourite video games this season, called loot boxes.

Samir Baksh is a former EB Games manager. (Photos by Dylan Olley)

Loot boxes are a form of micro-transaction in games, where someone can pay real money to receive a digital crate filled with random in game goods.

Even though a loot box system not a new idea, it has become more popular this year. Almost every major release this year has had loot boxes, including games like Call of Duty, Destiny 2and most recently Star Wars Battlefront 2. This has become an issue for some players, due to the “pay to win” nature these games seem to have.

Samir Baksh, a former EB Games manager, claims loot boxes have become more common because they are profitable. “The bottom line is that loot boxes sell, especially in multiplayer games where someone can pay $20 or $30 to get items which gives them an edge up on other players,” Baksh said.

“Companies make even more money from their games with micro-transactions like loot boxes. Micro-transactions have been around for awhile in games, but loot boxes are the latest form of them to be this successful,” he added.

While companies make more money from a game after it has already been bought by a gamer. However, there has been some negative results as well.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 is the most recent game this year to have a loot box system.

Gamers dislike the fact games are being treated more like a service rather than a product now. Games are already priced at $80 before tax, which makes the thought of spending more money in game to unlock items a bit uneasy for players.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m spending my money on an incomplete product, and I have to spend more just to get the full experience,” says Mitch Neyer, a gamer for over a decade.

“I play a lot of multiplayer games as well, and when I see loot boxes being almost advertised in the game it makes me feel like I’m being pushed to buy something,” he added.

“I think the issue is that companies have figured out that there is a percentage of players that would spend money in order to get ahead of others in game,” Baksh says. “Games, especially multiplayer games, used to have a progression system were you would unlock things as you played the game. Companies put micro-transactions in the games as a shortcut for some players who choose to spend some money.”

“Buying a specific item is boring to me,” Neyer says adding, “I’d rather work for a cool item and feel like I’ve accomplished something, instead of paying money and just getting the same item right away.”

Gamers open loot boxes and receive random in game items.

Loot boxes also have an certain appeal to them for being presented as almost a gift. Due to the fact that the contents of each box are random, players can have more fun opening them for a surprise rather than pay for a specific in game item.

Baksh agrees that loot boxes have a better appeal to them than other micro-transactions adding, “I think that since most gamers have experienced opening in game chests full of loot in games before, they can get a similar satisfaction with opening loot boxes. The major difference is that loot boxes cost real money and you don’t get them buy finding them in actual gameplay, but rather a separate menu.”