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Are Today’s Video Games Habit-Forming?

by Victor

Though many like to associate the inception of video games with Pong, the truth is that Tennis for Two, also known as Computer Tennis, was the granddaddy of software-based gaming. It debuted in 1958, played on an oscilloscope, and set the groundwork for Pong and the arcade classics that sprung up in the 1970s. However, some may say that modern-day video gaming rose to power in the early-1990s, as arcades started to die down and home consoles began to flood the market.

Over the years, this industry has started to morph dramatically, as its products have turned from linear single-player titles to multiplayer ones, where multiple outcomes are in play, meaning every session result cannot get predetermined by their developers. Moreover, video game creators have sought to exploit the customization options that video games now offer to manufacture additional revenue streams. Buying player skins, weapons, inventory, and more is all the rage now. And in the past few years, a novel phenomenon has gotten born loot boxes. That is the highly controversial subject that gets analyzed below, one that many compare to various aspects of using crypto gambling sites.

How Video Games Used to Get Enjoyed

In the past, video games involved simple trade. A gamer would visit a retail outlet such as GameSpot. They would buy a title for around $40 or so. Go home, and play it until they beat it through its standard gameplay. They would have no options for additional purchases to get made that would enhance their gaming experience.

In the late-1990s, PC expansion packs of super successful releases hit the market. These would require that a gamer have the original game installed on their desktop computer. Installing the expansion pack on top of it added new missions and features to the existing game. These packs added new campaigns and acted as sequels of sorts. They cost around half the original game and had a build-in demographic.

In the early-2000s, Half-Life modification started to gain traction, as massive HL communities appeared in a few years, dramatically reshaping the possibilities that the original Half-Life offered. Hence, tech-savvy gamers developed various new games using the Half-Life engine. The most famous of these was Counter-Strike. Half-Life modders also continuously unloaded skins for weapons and players on dedicated sites for free for everyone to enjoy. Now, that is unfeasible.

The Introduction of Loot Boxes

The simplest way to explain a loot box is to call it a consumable in-game item that can get redeemed and yield additional selections of random virtual assets. If that sounds too complicated of a definition, think of it as a box gamers purchase or win that holds mysterious items.

The assets these boxes house can be ones that enhance a player’s gameplay capabilities, or they can be merely aesthetical in nature. In most cases, they fall into the second category. Super popular games like Overwatch, Fortnite, Roblox, Mario Kart, and FIFA contain loot boxes.

The main reason many see them as controversial is the belief that they expose minors to a gambling-like activity. 

Gacha Mobile Games

Essential, the gacha game mechanic is a loot box, as these titles simulate players spending in-game currency for random virtual rewards. The gacha model rose to prominence in Japan in the early-2010s. Developers of free-to-play mobile apps implemented it to encourage users to spend fiat money on these seemingly harmless bits of software. In many gacha releases, paying for rewards is vital for advancing through game stages, and discounted gachas get provided as an incentive for users to spend money on real ones. Those who refuse to buy gacha and wish to play for free will have a much harder time completing all the offered stages/missions.

Metaverse Crypto Casino Picks

According to cryptocasinos.net, bitcoin gambling has been around for more than a decade, but metaverse casinos are a fairly new invention. They popped up in the first quarter of 2021 when video game trailblazer Atari decided to open a token-based gambling establishment in the virtual shared space Decentraland. The thing with these digital gaming establishments and others like it is that they offer many of the same products found at crypto gambling sites and land-based properties. That means blackjack, roulette, and baccarat are viable choices for coin play in simulated realities on the Web. So, virtual shared spaces have taken an extra step in video game fun by introducing proper casino-style gambling in the mix.

Card-Gathering Options

Most people have likely heard of Magic the Gathering, a tabletop collectible card game created by American mathematician Richard Garfield. It is the genre’s most famous representative that draws heavily from fantasy RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Collectible card games work in that each player begins with a pre-made starter deck. Then, they customize it through randomly attained cards in gaming sessions or by buying booster packs. Every card has its unique set of attributes, and each collector gets challenged to build the strongest deck possible within the game’s rules.

The gameplay in these games is usually turn-based. It involves everyone’s deck getting shuffled before the start of each round, with everyone waiting their turn before attacking, reducing other players’ health points in combat. Counters, card sleeves, play mats, and dice often complement the gameplay.

Again, this model feeds on players’ urge to acquire something to gain an edge. Given that most of the established physical card-gathering picks are available in digital form, this category made its way into our article.

How Do Loot Boxes Differ From Gambling

They don’t. Buying a random prize crate can trigger substantial in-game rewards or negligible ones. Players enjoying slot action at a BTC casino can produce a prize that is lower than their stake. Thus, that is no reward at all. So, in principle, loot boxes are the same as gambling.

The difference is that assets attained through loot boxes can get sold at third-party auction platforms.

Loot Box Regulations Differ From Country to Country

Despite efforts and many debates in the US regarding the nature of loot boxes, there is no legal consensus around their illegality, even though the US Federal Trade Commission raised this issue at a public workshop.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, and several other jurisdictions have decided that loot boxes constitute a form of gambling, and they fall under the regulation of local gambling laws. Japan banned gachas in 2012, a couple of years after that craze started to take off in the Land of the Rising Sun. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before the loot box regulatory framework passed here. Yet, it is different from the one in Western nations because the legality of loot boxes in Japan gets determined on a case-by-case basis.

In the UK, the country’s Gambling Commission has stated that its guiding law, the 2005 Gambling Act, does not cover loot boxes. Consequently, the UKGC has no regulatory power to take action on this matter.

To Sum Up

While some may get overly dramatic regarding loot boxes, the price tags listed on these virtual chests are nothing substantial. No one will experience financial peril from buying one. Nonetheless, the question must get asked where does the line between games and gambling get drawn? The loot box concept for sure blurs it.

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