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Despite backlash, loot boxes could be essential to gaming’s future

Enlarge / Some might object to using a slot machine to illustrate a piece on loot boxes, but Juniper directly calls them “a form of in-game gambling” so…

With all the controversyscrutiny, and international regulation randomized video game loot boxes are facing these days, you might think the practice of charging players for a chance at unknown in-game items might be set for a precipitous decline. On the contrary, though, one analyst sees spending on loot boxes increasing by over 62 percent in the next four years to become a $47 billion piece of the industry. By then, loot boxes will represent over 29 percent of all spending on digital games, the analyst said, up from just under 25 percent currently.

In a newly published forecast of the global game market, Juniper Research concedes that developers are “effectively encouraging a form of in-game gambling” with loot boxes and using that addictive potential to “extend both the lifecycle and engagement of games titles to their audience.” These kinds of non-traditional money-making techniques are a practical necessity for developers squeezed by increasing costs and stagnant or declining up-front game prices, Juniper says.

“As new technologies and standards come into play, costs are ever-growing, yet game prices, in the console industry particularly, are relatively flat, leading to developers seeking new means to monetize their products,” Juniper analyst Lauren Foye told Ars. “Thus it is logical that loot box mechanics, which have proven so successful for titles such as CS:GO and PUBG, would see integration onto new, upcoming titles.”