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Video Game Monetization (e.g., ‘Loot Boxes’): a Blueprint for Practical Social Responsibility Measures

Abstract

Video games are becoming increasingly monetized with the addition of in-game purchasing options, which has prompted some comparisons of these products to electronic gaming machines. The expansion and sophistication of ‘microtransaction’ options in online games (e.g., ‘loot boxes’) has also led to concerns about vulnerable users (e.g., adolescents) overspending on these schemes. Currently, there are limited regulatory and/or consumer protection frameworks for video game monetization schemes. This conceptual paper explores some potential social responsibility measures for monetized gaming products to stimulate further discussion and developments in this area. Loot boxes are a focus of this discussion given the current debate on their legality, i.e., similarity to electronic gambling machines. Drawing on social responsibility principles and research in the field of gambling studies, we outline some potential measures in the areas of: (1) game design and in-game purchasing system characteristics, (2) transparency and accuracy of game design and features, (3) broad consumer protection measures, and (4) consumer information and industry accountability. It is hoped that this paper will encourage further discussion among academics, regulators, and the industry. An empirical evidence base is needed to inform the design and implementation of countermeasures for monetization schemes that increase risk of gaming-related harm for some users.

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Funding

This work received financial support from a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) DE170101198 funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

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Correspondence to Daniel L. King.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors.

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Daniel King and Paul Delfabbro have not been involved in any research involving the marketing or refinement of gaming or gambling products for commercial operations.

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King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. Video Game Monetization (e.g., ‘Loot Boxes’): a Blueprint for Practical Social Responsibility Measures. Int J Ment Health Addiction 17, 166–179 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-018-0009-3

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Keywords

  • Video game
  • Loot box
  • Predatory monetization
  • Microtransaction
  • Social responsibility: consumer protection