Loot boxes are quasi-gambling virtual products in video games that provide randomised rewards of varying value. Previous studies in Western contexts have identified a positive correlation between loot box purchasing and problem gambling severity. A preregistered survey of People’s Republic of China (PRC) video game players (N = 879) failed to replicate this correlation. We observed statistically significant but weak positive correlations between loot box expenditure and past-year gambling participation, and between loot box expenditure and impulsiveness. This study cannot prove that loot boxes are not disproportionately purchased by people with problem gambling symptomatology in the PRC or that PRC players are not potentially at risk of loot box-related harms. Instead, the evidence suggests that the relationship between loot boxes and gambling might be weaker in the PRC than in Western countries. We identified multiple unique factors about the PRC that might be affecting this relationship. For example, the lotteries are the only legally permitted form of gambling. More gamified electronic gambling products are unavailable. The limited availability of gambling meant that a low level of gambling participation (n = 87) was observed, which is a limitation of this study. Additionally, the PRC is presently the only country to legally require loot box probability disclosures as a consumer protection measure. Most loot box purchasers (84.6%) reported seeing loot box probability disclosures, but only 19.3% of this group reported consequently spending less money. Most loot box purchasers (86.9%) thought that pity-timers, which increase the winning probabilities of obtaining rarer rewards, are appropriate for implementation. Future loot box research should give greater consideration to differing cultural contexts and novel consumer protection measures.
|Journal||Journal of Gambling Studies|
|Publication status||Published - 7 Aug 2022|
- Video gaming
- Loot boxes
- Video game regulations
- Consumer protection law
- Mainland China